WASHINGTON (CNN)By the time images of desperate Afghans clinging to American warplanes began emerging from Kabul on Monday morning, President Joe Biden had conceded to aides he had little choice but to interrupt his stay at Camp David to return to the White House.

He had been facing calls, even from his political allies, to speak out on the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban. His top aides had begun publicly admitting they were caught off guard by the speed with which the Afghan military would collapse but wanted the situation in Kabul to stabilize before Biden addressed the nation. And his own words from earlier this summer describing a Taliban takeover as “unlikely” were aggravating the sense of a commander-in-chief caught badly off guard.During briefings, the President quizzed his team about how they could have misjudged the time it would take for the Afghan army to collapse, according to people familiar with the matter. He has also voiced dismay at the failure of Ashraf Ghani, the ousted Afghan president who fled the country on Sunday, to adhere to a plan he laid out in the Oval Office in June to prevent the Taliban from taking over major cities.Throughout the weekend, Biden had remained at the presidential retreat, receiving briefings on screens or over the phone while sitting alone at conference table. Advisers huddled separately to discuss when and how he should address the situation. When he returned to the White House midday Monday, many of his aides assumed he would at least spend the night.Yet almost as soon as Biden touched down in Washington, word went out that his stay at the executive mansion would be brief. After his 18-minute speech, Biden quickly decamped again for the mountains.Read MoreAs advisers worked feverishly on Monday to calibrate the President’s speech, there was far less worry about the predictable criticism from Republicans than about how Biden’s own words and calculations over the last several months had been so wrong. The episode puts into sharp relief two of Biden’s most marked political traits: A stubborn defensive streak and a fierce certainty in his decision-making that allows little room for second-guessing.Those traits led to an air of defiance hanging over the White House on Monday, but remarkable images of the chaos in Kabul — which the President called “gut wrenching” — stood as irrefutable evidence of failure. The task of what to do next will be left to Biden.Fareed Zakaria: This withdrawal is a stain on Biden's foreign policy Fareed Zakaria: This withdrawal is a stain on Biden's foreign policy Fareed Zakaria: This withdrawal is a stain on Biden's foreign policy JUST WATCHEDFareed Zakaria: This withdrawal is a stain on Biden’s foreign policy ReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH

Fareed Zakaria: This withdrawal is a stain on Biden’s foreign policy 02:59 Scenes in Kabul are ‘way worse than Saigon’ Inside the White House and national security agencies, there has been fierce debate over how the current catastrophe unfolding in Afghanistan came to be. Officials who have built entire careers on issues related to the country have found it hard to fathom the blunt end to the 20-year conflict. But the defiant message in Biden’s Monday speech reflected conversations he had with advisers over the last 48 hours. Officials were aware the situation that ultimately unfolded was possible — the Taliban overwhelming the civilian government in Kabul once US forces left — but had counted on it being unlikely.Biden’s top aides have been candid this week in admitting they did not expect it to happen so quickly.'Almost comical': Sciutto criticizes Biden adviser over Afghanistan answer'Almost comical': Sciutto criticizes Biden adviser over Afghanistan answer'Almost comical': Sciutto criticizes Biden adviser over Afghanistan answerJUST WATCHED’Almost comical’: Sciutto criticizes Biden adviser over Afghanistan answerReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH

‘Almost comical’: Sciutto criticizes Biden adviser over Afghanistan answer 01:27″It is certainly the case that the speed with which cities fell was much greater than anyone anticipated,” Sullivan said Monday on NBC’s “Today.”At the same time, Biden has been confronted with his own past statements downplaying the notion the Taliban would overrun Kabul and outright rejecting the prospect the US embassy there would be evacuated.Part of that approach — to downplay the prospect of the Taliban taking control of the country — was meant to avoid further erosion of morale among the country’s defense forces, one adviser said. And Biden said during his remarks that the now-deposed Afghan government had encouraged the United States to hold off on orchestrating a mass exodus “to avoid triggering, as they said, a crisis of confidence.”Still, in retrospect, Biden’s comments about how the war would end — including a rejection of comparisons to the fall of Saigon in 1975 — appeared badly misguided.”For the administration to say this isn’t going to be Saigon as we look at those sorts of images — well maybe they’re right. Because they’re way worse than Saigon,” said Ryan Crocker, who served as ambassador to Afghanistan under former President Barack Obama.'Where is the President?': Keilar presses White House official over Afghanistan'Where is the President?': Keilar presses White House official over Afghanistan'Where is the President?': Keilar presses White House official over AfghanistanJUST WATCHED’Where is the President?’: Keilar presses White House official over AfghanistanReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH

‘Where is the President?’: Keilar presses White House official over Afghanistan 00:57 Questions left unanswered Biden has long exuded self-assurance both in his foreign policy views and political strategy, honed over his many years in Washington. Aides say while he welcomes dissenting views and robust debate, he is most likely to abruptly shut down a conversation if he feels his knowledge of a situation — particularly on international affairs — is being questioned. That stubbornness was on fully display in his speech from the East Room, during which the President devoted far time defending his decision to withdraw American troops than acknowledging his administration’s admitted miscalculations. While briefly acknowledging that the Taliban’s advance and the collapse of the government took place “more quickly than we anticipated,” Biden made clear that his intent to end the war hadn’t changed.”I am the President of the United States of America,” Biden said. “The buck stops with me.”20 years in Afghanistan: America's longest war20 years in Afghanistan: America's longest war Photos: America's longest warUS soldiers fire artillery in Afghanistan's Kandahar province in June 2011. Operation Enduring Freedom was launched in October 2001 to stop the Taliban regime from providing a safe haven to al Qaeda and to stop al Qaeda's use of Afghanistan as a base of operations for terrorist activities.US soldiers fire artillery in Afghanistan's Kandahar province in June 2011. Operation Enduring Freedom was launched in October 2001 to stop the Taliban regime from providing a safe haven to al Qaeda and to stop al Qaeda's use of Afghanistan as a base of operations for terrorist activities. Photos: America's longest warUS soldiers fire artillery in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province in June 2011. Operation Enduring Freedom was launched in October 2001 to stop the Taliban regime from providing a safe haven to al Qaeda and to stop al Qaeda’s use of Afghanistan as a base of operations for terrorist activities.Hide Caption 1 of 60Thousands of Taliban supporters rally in Quetta, Pakistan, near the Afghan border, on October 1, 2001.Thousands of Taliban supporters rally in Quetta, Pakistan, near the Afghan border, on October 1, 2001. Photos: America's longest warThousands of Taliban supporters rally in Quetta, Pakistan, near the Afghan border, on October 1, 2001.Hide Caption 2 of 60Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is seen at an undisclosed location in this television image broadcast on October 7, 2001. Bin Laden praised God for the September 11 attacks and swore America "will never dream of security" until "the infidel's armies leave the land of Muhammad."Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is seen at an undisclosed location in this television image broadcast on October 7, 2001. Bin Laden praised God for the September 11 attacks and swore America "will never dream of security" until "the infidel's armies leave the land of Muhammad." Photos: America's longest warAl Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is seen at an undisclosed location in this television image broadcast on October 7, 2001. Bin Laden praised God for the September 11 attacks and swore America “will never dream of security” until “the infidel’s armies leave the land of Muhammad.”Hide Caption 3 of 60A Tomahawk cruise missile is launched from a US ship in the Arabian Sea on October 7, 2001. American and British forces began airstrikes in Afghanistan, targeting al Qaeda and the Taliban regime that had been giving al Qaeda protection. A Tomahawk cruise missile is launched from a US ship in the Arabian Sea on October 7, 2001. American and British forces began airstrikes in Afghanistan, targeting al Qaeda and the Taliban regime that had been giving al Qaeda protection. Photos: America's longest warA Tomahawk cruise missile is launched from a US ship in the Arabian Sea on October 7, 2001. American and British forces began airstrikes in Afghanistan, targeting al Qaeda and the Taliban regime that had been giving al Qaeda protection. Hide Caption 4 of 60Members of the Afghan Northern Alliance, an anti-Taliban group, kill a wounded Taliban fighter they found while advancing toward Kabul, Afghanistan, in November 2001. US airstrikes and Northern Alliance ground attacks led to the fall of Kabul that month.Members of the Afghan Northern Alliance, an anti-Taliban group, kill a wounded Taliban fighter they found while advancing toward Kabul, Afghanistan, in November 2001. US airstrikes and Northern Alliance ground attacks led to the fall of Kabul that month. Photos: America's longest warMembers of the Afghan Northern Alliance, an anti-Taliban group, kill a wounded Taliban fighter they found while advancing toward Kabul, Afghanistan, in November 2001. US airstrikes and Northern Alliance ground attacks led to the fall of Kabul that month.Hide Caption 5 of 60An Afghan Northern Alliance fighter bursts into laughter as US planes strike a Taliban position near Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in December 2001. Afghan militia leaders declared victory in the battle of Tora Bora and claimed to have captured al Qaeda's last base.An Afghan Northern Alliance fighter bursts into laughter as US planes strike a Taliban position near Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in December 2001. Afghan militia leaders declared victory in the battle of Tora Bora and claimed to have captured al Qaeda's last base. Photos: America's longest warAn Afghan Northern Alliance fighter bursts into laughter as US planes strike a Taliban position near Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in December 2001. Afghan militia leaders declared victory in the battle of Tora Bora and claimed to have captured al Qaeda’s last base.Hide Caption 6 of 60Renae Chapman holds her 2-year-old daughter, Amanda, during the funeral service for her husband, Army Sgt. 1st Class Nathan R. Chapman, in Fort Lewis, Washington, in January 2002. He was the first US soldier to be killed by enemy fire during the war in Afghanistan.Renae Chapman holds her 2-year-old daughter, Amanda, during the funeral service for her husband, Army Sgt. 1st Class Nathan R. Chapman, in Fort Lewis, Washington, in January 2002. He was the first US soldier to be killed by enemy fire during the war in Afghanistan. Photos: America's longest warRenae Chapman holds her 2-year-old daughter, Amanda, during the funeral service for her husband, Army Sgt. 1st Class Nathan R. Chapman, in Fort Lewis, Washington, in January 2002. He was the first US soldier to be killed by enemy fire during the war in Afghanistan.Hide Caption 7 of 60Mohboba, 7, stands near a bullet-ridden wall in Kabul as she waits to be seen at a health clinic in March 2002. She had a skin ailment that plagued many <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2016/05/31/middleeast/cnnphotos-afghanistan-between-hope-and-fear" target="_blank">poverty-stricken children in Afghanistan.</a>Mohboba, 7, stands near a bullet-ridden wall in Kabul as she waits to be seen at a health clinic in March 2002. She had a skin ailment that plagued many <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2016/05/31/middleeast/cnnphotos-afghanistan-between-hope-and-fear" target="_blank">poverty-stricken children in Afghanistan.</a> Photos: America's longest warMohboba, 7, stands near a bullet-ridden wall in Kabul as she waits to be seen at a health clinic in March 2002. She had a skin ailment that plagued many poverty-stricken children in Afghanistan.Hide Caption 8 of 60US soldier Jorge Avino tallies the number of people that his mortar team had killed while fighting in Afghanistan in March 2002.US soldier Jorge Avino tallies the number of people that his mortar team had killed while fighting in Afghanistan in March 2002. Photos: America's longest warUS soldier Jorge Avino tallies the number of people that his mortar team had killed while fighting in Afghanistan in March 2002.Hide Caption 9 of 60A man and his son watch US soldiers prepare to sweep their home in southeastern Afghanistan in November 2002.A man and his son watch US soldiers prepare to sweep their home in southeastern Afghanistan in November 2002. Photos: America's longest warA man and his son watch US soldiers prepare to sweep their home in southeastern Afghanistan in November 2002.Hide Caption 10 of 60Women wait in line to be treated at a health clinic in Kalakan, Afghanistan, in February 2003.Women wait in line to be treated at a health clinic in Kalakan, Afghanistan, in February 2003. Photos: America's longest warWomen wait in line to be treated at a health clinic in Kalakan, Afghanistan, in February 2003.Hide Caption 11 of 60Mohammaed Mahdi, who lost his foot in a mine explosion, waits for a Red Cross doctor at his home in Kabul in August 2004. This photo was taken by Associated Press photographer Emilio Morenatti, who five years later lost part of his leg when the armored vehicle he was in hit a roadside bomb.Mohammaed Mahdi, who lost his foot in a mine explosion, waits for a Red Cross doctor at his home in Kabul in August 2004. This photo was taken by Associated Press photographer Emilio Morenatti, who five years later lost part of his leg when the armored vehicle he was in hit a roadside bomb. Photos: America's longest warMohammaed Mahdi, who lost his foot in a mine explosion, waits for a Red Cross doctor at his home in Kabul in August 2004. This photo was taken by Associated Press photographer Emilio Morenatti, who five years later lost part of his leg when the armored vehicle he was in hit a roadside bomb.Hide Caption 12 of 60Afghans in Kabul line up to vote in the country's first democratic election in October 2004. Hamid Karzai was sworn in as President in December of that year.Afghans in Kabul line up to vote in the country's first democratic election in October 2004. Hamid Karzai was sworn in as President in December of that year. Photos: America's longest warAfghans in Kabul line up to vote in the country’s first democratic election in October 2004. Hamid Karzai was sworn in as President in December of that year.Hide Caption 13 of 60An Afghan soldier provides security at the site where a US helicopter crashed near Ghazni, Afghanistan, in April 2005. At least 16 people were killed.An Afghan soldier provides security at the site where a US helicopter crashed near Ghazni, Afghanistan, in April 2005. At least 16 people were killed. Photos: America's longest warAn Afghan soldier provides security at the site where a US helicopter crashed near Ghazni, Afghanistan, in April 2005. At least 16 people were killed.Hide Caption 14 of 60US President George W. Bush attends a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul in March 2006. It was Bush's first visit to Afghanistan.US President George W. Bush attends a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul in March 2006. It was Bush's first visit to Afghanistan. Photos: America's longest warUS President George W. Bush attends a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul in March 2006. It was Bush’s first visit to Afghanistan.Hide Caption 15 of 60Girls at the Bibi Mahroo High School raise their hands during an English class in Kabul in November 2006. After the fall of the Taliban, millions of Afghan girls <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2012/09/26/world/asia/cnnheroes-afghan-schoolgirls" target="_blank">were able to attend school</a> and get the education that their mothers couldn't.Girls at the Bibi Mahroo High School raise their hands during an English class in Kabul in November 2006. After the fall of the Taliban, millions of Afghan girls <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2012/09/26/world/asia/cnnheroes-afghan-schoolgirls" target="_blank">were able to attend school</a> and get the education that their mothers couldn't. Photos: America's longest warGirls at the Bibi Mahroo High School raise their hands during an English class in Kabul in November 2006. After the fall of the Taliban, millions of Afghan girls were able to attend school and get the education that their mothers couldn’t.Hide Caption 16 of 60British Marines take cover during an anti-Taliban operation near Kajaki, Afghanistan, in March 2007. Many other countries also deployed troops to the country.British Marines take cover during an anti-Taliban operation near Kajaki, Afghanistan, in March 2007. Many other countries also deployed troops to the country. Photos: America's longest warBritish Marines take cover during an anti-Taliban operation near Kajaki, Afghanistan, in March 2007. Many other countries also deployed troops to the country.Hide Caption 17 of 60Supplies are dropped to US troops in Afghanistan's Ghazni province in May 2007.Supplies are dropped to US troops in Afghanistan's Ghazni province in May 2007. Photos: America's longest warSupplies are dropped to US troops in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province in May 2007.Hide Caption 18 of 60Afghan students recite Islamic prayers at an outdoor classroom in the remote Wakhan Corridor in September 2007.Afghan students recite Islamic prayers at an outdoor classroom in the remote Wakhan Corridor in September 2007. Photos: America's longest warAfghan students recite Islamic prayers at an outdoor classroom in the remote Wakhan Corridor in September 2007.Hide Caption 19 of 60US Army Spc. Brandon Olson sinks onto a bunker embankment in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley in September 2007. The Korengal Valley was the site of some of the deadliest combat in the region.US Army Spc. Brandon Olson sinks onto a bunker embankment in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley in September 2007. The Korengal Valley was the site of some of the deadliest combat in the region. Photos: America's longest warUS Army Spc. Brandon Olson sinks onto a bunker embankment in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley in September 2007. The Korengal Valley was the site of some of the deadliest combat in the region.Hide Caption 20 of 60US Marine Sgt. Nicholas Bender launches a Raven surveillance drone near the remote village of Baqwa, Afghanistan, in March 2009.US Marine Sgt. Nicholas Bender launches a Raven surveillance drone near the remote village of Baqwa, Afghanistan, in March 2009. Photos: America's longest warUS Marine Sgt. Nicholas Bender launches a Raven surveillance drone near the remote village of Baqwa, Afghanistan, in March 2009.Hide Caption 21 of 60US soldiers take defensive positions after receiving fire from Taliban positions in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley in May 2009. Army Spc. Zachary Boyd was still in his "I love NY" boxers because he rushed from his sleeping quarters to join his fellow platoon members. US soldiers take defensive positions after receiving fire from Taliban positions in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley in May 2009. Army Spc. Zachary Boyd was still in his "I love NY" boxers because he rushed from his sleeping quarters to join his fellow platoon members.  Photos: America's longest warUS soldiers take defensive positions after receiving fire from Taliban positions in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley in May 2009. Army Spc. Zachary Boyd was still in his “I love NY” boxers because he rushed from his sleeping quarters to join his fellow platoon members. Hide Caption 22 of 60US soldiers shield their eyes from the rotor wash of a Chinook helicopter as they are picked up from a mission in Afghanistan's Paktika province in October 2009.US soldiers shield their eyes from the rotor wash of a Chinook helicopter as they are picked up from a mission in Afghanistan's Paktika province in October 2009. Photos: America's longest warUS soldiers shield their eyes from the rotor wash of a Chinook helicopter as they are picked up from a mission in Afghanistan’s Paktika province in October 2009.Hide Caption 23 of 60Children watch a Canadian soldier conducting a dusk patrol in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in October 2009.Children watch a Canadian soldier conducting a dusk patrol in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in October 2009. Photos: America's longest warChildren watch a Canadian soldier conducting a dusk patrol in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in October 2009.Hide Caption 24 of 60US soldiers fire mortars from a base in Afghanistan's Kunar province in October 2009.US soldiers fire mortars from a base in Afghanistan's Kunar province in October 2009. Photos: America's longest warUS soldiers fire mortars from a base in Afghanistan’s Kunar province in October 2009.Hide Caption 25 of 60Troops rest at an airfield in Afghanistan's Helmand province in February 2010.Troops rest at an airfield in Afghanistan's Helmand province in February 2010. Photos: America's longest warTroops rest at an airfield in Afghanistan’s Helmand province in February 2010.Hide Caption 26 of 60Afghan soldiers rush a wounded police officer to an American helicopter in Afghanistan's Kunar province in March 2010.Afghan soldiers rush a wounded police officer to an American helicopter in Afghanistan's Kunar province in March 2010. Photos: America's longest warAfghan soldiers rush a wounded police officer to an American helicopter in Afghanistan’s Kunar province in March 2010.Hide Caption 27 of 60Village elders meet in Marja, Afghanistan, in March 2010.Village elders meet in Marja, Afghanistan, in March 2010. Photos: America's longest warVillage elders meet in Marja, Afghanistan, in March 2010.Hide Caption 28 of 60Sgt. Brian Keith sits with his wife, Sara, and their baby son, Stephen, just before his deployment to Afghanistan in March 2010. A few months earlier, President Barack Obama announced a surge of 30,000 additional troops. This new deployment would bring the US total to almost 100,000 troops, in addition to 40,000 NATO troops. Sgt. Brian Keith sits with his wife, Sara, and their baby son, Stephen, just before his deployment to Afghanistan in March 2010. A few months earlier, President Barack Obama announced a surge of 30,000 additional troops. This new deployment would bring the US total to almost 100,000 troops, in addition to 40,000 NATO troops.  Photos: America's longest warSgt. Brian Keith sits with his wife, Sara, and their baby son, Stephen, just before his deployment to Afghanistan in March 2010. A few months earlier, President Barack Obama announced a surge of 30,000 additional troops. This new deployment would bring the US total to almost 100,000 troops, in addition to 40,000 NATO troops. Hide Caption 29 of 60US troops, aboard a C-17 transport plane, head to Afghanistan in April 2010.US troops, aboard a C-17 transport plane, head to Afghanistan in April 2010. Photos: America's longest warUS troops, aboard a C-17 transport plane, head to Afghanistan in April 2010.Hide Caption 30 of 60US soldiers recover an armored vehicle that was hit by an explosive device in Afghanistan's Kunduz province in April 2010.US soldiers recover an armored vehicle that was hit by an explosive device in Afghanistan's Kunduz province in April 2010. Photos: America's longest warUS soldiers recover an armored vehicle that was hit by an explosive device in Afghanistan’s Kunduz province in April 2010.Hide Caption 31 of 60Schoolgirls are seen through the window of a Humvee as they wave to a passing American convoy in Herat, Afghanistan, in June 2010.Schoolgirls are seen through the window of a Humvee as they wave to a passing American convoy in Herat, Afghanistan, in June 2010. Photos: America's longest warSchoolgirls are seen through the window of a Humvee as they wave to a passing American convoy in Herat, Afghanistan, in June 2010.Hide Caption 32 of 60A man cries while talking to US soldiers in Naghma Bazaar, Afghanistan, in September 2010. The man said Taliban fighters had forced their way into his home and demanded food and milk before getting into a firefight with American soldiers.A man cries while talking to US soldiers in Naghma Bazaar, Afghanistan, in September 2010. The man said Taliban fighters had forced their way into his home and demanded food and milk before getting into a firefight with American soldiers. Photos: America's longest warA man cries while talking to US soldiers in Naghma Bazaar, Afghanistan, in September 2010. The man said Taliban fighters had forced their way into his home and demanded food and milk before getting into a firefight with American soldiers.Hide Caption 33 of 60Halawasha, right, and an Afghan National Police member hold her young sister Shokria as a US Army medic wraps her serious burns in Now Ruzi, Afghanistan, in October 2010. US soldiers were on a routine patrol when they came across Shokria, whose forearms were burned with scalding milk during a household accident five days earlier. Medics dressed the burns and began working with local Afghan military to have the girl driven to a nearby hospital.Halawasha, right, and an Afghan National Police member hold her young sister Shokria as a US Army medic wraps her serious burns in Now Ruzi, Afghanistan, in October 2010. US soldiers were on a routine patrol when they came across Shokria, whose forearms were burned with scalding milk during a household accident five days earlier. Medics dressed the burns and began working with local Afghan military to have the girl driven to a nearby hospital. Photos: America's longest warHalawasha, right, and an Afghan National Police member hold her young sister Shokria as a US Army medic wraps her serious burns in Now Ruzi, Afghanistan, in October 2010. US soldiers were on a routine patrol when they came across Shokria, whose forearms were burned with scalding milk during a household accident five days earlier. Medics dressed the burns and began working with local Afghan military to have the girl driven to a nearby hospital.Hide Caption 34 of 60An Afghan man is detained by US Marines after they battled Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan's Helmand province in November 2010.An Afghan man is detained by US Marines after they battled Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan's Helmand province in November 2010. Photos: America's longest warAn Afghan man is detained by US Marines after they battled Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan’s Helmand province in November 2010.Hide Caption 35 of 60President Barack Obama and members of his national security team monitor the Navy SEALs raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011. "Fourteen people crammed into the room, the President sitting in a folding chair on the corner of the table's head," <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2016/04/30/politics/obama-osama-bin-laden-raid-situation-room/" target="_blank">said CNN's Peter Bergen as he relived the bin Laden raid five years later.</a> "They sat in this room until the SEALs returned to Afghanistan." <em>(Editor's note: The classified document in front of Hillary Clinton was obscured by the White House.)</em>President Barack Obama and members of his national security team monitor the Navy SEALs raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011. "Fourteen people crammed into the room, the President sitting in a folding chair on the corner of the table's head," <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2016/04/30/politics/obama-osama-bin-laden-raid-situation-room/" target="_blank">said CNN's Peter Bergen as he relived the bin Laden raid five years later.</a> "They sat in this room until the SEALs returned to Afghanistan." <em>(Editor's note: The classified document in front of Hillary Clinton was obscured by the White House.)</em> Photos: America's longest warPresident Barack Obama and members of his national security team monitor the Navy SEALs raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011. “Fourteen people crammed into the room, the President sitting in a folding chair on the corner of the table’s head,” said CNN’s Peter Bergen as he relived the bin Laden raid five years later. “They sat in this room until the SEALs returned to Afghanistan.” (Editor’s note: The classified document in front of Hillary Clinton was obscured by the White House.)Hide Caption 36 of 60US Marine Cpl. Burness Britt reacts after being lifted onto a medevac helicopter in June 2011. A large piece of shrapnel from an improvised explosive device cut a major artery on his neck near Sangin, Afghanistan. This photo was taken by Anja Niedringhaus, an Associated Press photographer <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2014/04/04/world/asia/afghanistan-journalists-shot/index.html" target="_blank">who was fatally shot in Afghanistan in 2014.</a>US Marine Cpl. Burness Britt reacts after being lifted onto a medevac helicopter in June 2011. A large piece of shrapnel from an improvised explosive device cut a major artery on his neck near Sangin, Afghanistan. This photo was taken by Anja Niedringhaus, an Associated Press photographer <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2014/04/04/world/asia/afghanistan-journalists-shot/index.html" target="_blank">who was fatally shot in Afghanistan in 2014.</a> Photos: America's longest warUS Marine Cpl. Burness Britt reacts after being lifted onto a medevac helicopter in June 2011. A large piece of shrapnel from an improvised explosive device cut a major artery on his neck near Sangin, Afghanistan. This photo was taken by Anja Niedringhaus, an Associated Press photographer who was fatally shot in Afghanistan in 2014.Hide Caption 37 of 60US soldiers work out at a post in Afghanistan's Kunar province in September 2011.US soldiers work out at a post in Afghanistan's Kunar province in September 2011. Photos: America's longest warUS soldiers work out at a post in Afghanistan’s Kunar province in September 2011.Hide Caption 38 of 60Tarana Akbari, 12, screams after a suicide bomber attacked the Abul Fazel Shrine in Kabul, Afghanistan, in December 2011. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2011/12/06/world/asia/afghanistan-violence-analysis/index.html" target="_blank">Twin bomb blasts</a> killed dozens of Afghan people on the holy day of Ashura.Tarana Akbari, 12, screams after a suicide bomber attacked the Abul Fazel Shrine in Kabul, Afghanistan, in December 2011. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2011/12/06/world/asia/afghanistan-violence-analysis/index.html" target="_blank">Twin bomb blasts</a> killed dozens of Afghan people on the holy day of Ashura. Photos: America's longest warTarana Akbari, 12, screams after a suicide bomber attacked the Abul Fazel Shrine in Kabul, Afghanistan, in December 2011. Twin bomb blasts killed dozens of Afghan people on the holy day of Ashura.Hide Caption 39 of 60In this long-exposure photo, a jet takes off from the flight deck of the USS John C. Stennis, an aircraft carrier that was in the northern Arabian Sea in January 2012.In this long-exposure photo, a jet takes off from the flight deck of the USS John C. Stennis, an aircraft carrier that was in the northern Arabian Sea in January 2012. Photos: America's longest warIn this long-exposure photo, a jet takes off from the flight deck of the USS John C. Stennis, an aircraft carrier that was in the northern Arabian Sea in January 2012.Hide Caption 40 of 60Afghan soldiers, left, and American troops blow up a Taliban firing position in the Afghan village of Layadira in February 2013.Afghan soldiers, left, and American troops blow up a Taliban firing position in the Afghan village of Layadira in February 2013. Photos: America's longest warAfghan soldiers, left, and American troops blow up a Taliban firing position in the Afghan village of Layadira in February 2013.Hide Caption 41 of 60Lesleigh Coyer lies down in front of the grave of her brother, Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Coyer, at Virginia's Arlington National Cemetery in March 2013. He died of complications from an injury sustained in Afghanistan.Lesleigh Coyer lies down in front of the grave of her brother, Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Coyer, at Virginia's Arlington National Cemetery in March 2013. He died of complications from an injury sustained in Afghanistan. Photos: America's longest warLesleigh Coyer lies down in front of the grave of her brother, Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Coyer, at Virginia’s Arlington National Cemetery in March 2013. He died of complications from an injury sustained in Afghanistan.Hide Caption 42 of 60Samiullah, 8 months old and malnourished, is held by his mother, Islam Bibi, at a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Lashgar Gar, Afghanistan, in September 2013.Samiullah, 8 months old and malnourished, is held by his mother, Islam Bibi, at a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Lashgar Gar, Afghanistan, in September 2013. Photos: America's longest warSamiullah, 8 months old and malnourished, is held by his mother, Islam Bibi, at a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Lashgar Gar, Afghanistan, in September 2013.Hide Caption 43 of 60An Afghan army convoy travels Highway 1 in Afghanistan's Wardak province in November 2013. The picture at right shows Afghan President Hamid Karzai.An Afghan army convoy travels Highway 1 in Afghanistan's Wardak province in November 2013. The picture at right shows Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Photos: America's longest warAn Afghan army convoy travels Highway 1 in Afghanistan’s Wardak province in November 2013. The picture at right shows Afghan President Hamid Karzai.Hide Caption 44 of 60Afghan Army Sgt. Sayed Wazir screams a prayer while firing a rocket in Afghanistan's Wardak province in November 2013.Afghan Army Sgt. Sayed Wazir screams a prayer while firing a rocket in Afghanistan's Wardak province in November 2013. Photos: America's longest warAfghan Army Sgt. Sayed Wazir screams a prayer while firing a rocket in Afghanistan’s Wardak province in November 2013.Hide Caption 45 of 60A woman is rushed from the scene of a suicide car bombing in Kabul in December 2013.A woman is rushed from the scene of a suicide car bombing in Kabul in December 2013. Photos: America's longest warA woman is rushed from the scene of a suicide car bombing in Kabul in December 2013.Hide Caption 46 of 60Blood-stained Pakistani bank notes are displayed on the body of a dead suicide bomber after an attack in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in March 2014. Police said they found the bank notes in his pocket. Three insurgents tried to storm the former headquarters of Afghanistan's intelligence service in southern Kandahar. They died in a gunbattle with security forces, officials said.Blood-stained Pakistani bank notes are displayed on the body of a dead suicide bomber after an attack in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in March 2014. Police said they found the bank notes in his pocket. Three insurgents tried to storm the former headquarters of Afghanistan's intelligence service in southern Kandahar. They died in a gunbattle with security forces, officials said. Photos: America's longest warBlood-stained Pakistani bank notes are displayed on the body of a dead suicide bomber after an attack in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in March 2014. Police said they found the bank notes in his pocket. Three insurgents tried to storm the former headquarters of Afghanistan’s intelligence service in southern Kandahar. They died in a gunbattle with security forces, officials said.Hide Caption 47 of 60US President Barack Obama walks with the parents of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl after making a statement at the White House about <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/31/world/asia/afghanistan-bergdahl-release/index.html" target="_blank">Bergdahl's release</a> in May 2014. Bergdahl had been held captive in Afghanistan for nearly five years, and the Taliban released him in exchange for five U.S.-held prisoners.US President Barack Obama walks with the parents of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl after making a statement at the White House about <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/31/world/asia/afghanistan-bergdahl-release/index.html" target="_blank">Bergdahl's release</a> in May 2014. Bergdahl had been held captive in Afghanistan for nearly five years, and the Taliban released him in exchange for five U.S.-held prisoners. Photos: America's longest warUS President Barack Obama walks with the parents of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl after making a statement at the White House about Bergdahl’s release in May 2014. Bergdahl had been held captive in Afghanistan for nearly five years, and the Taliban released him in exchange for five U.S.-held prisoners.Hide Caption 48 of 60This photo shows the aftermath of an American airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, in October 2015. The hospital was <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2015/10/05/asia/afghanistan-doctors-without-borders-hospital/index.html" target="_blank">"accidentally struck"</a> by US bombs after Afghan forces called for air support, said Gen. John Campbell, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan.This photo shows the aftermath of an American airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, in October 2015. The hospital was <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2015/10/05/asia/afghanistan-doctors-without-borders-hospital/index.html" target="_blank">"accidentally struck"</a> by US bombs after Afghan forces called for air support, said Gen. John Campbell, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan. Photos: America's longest warThis photo shows the aftermath of an American airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, in October 2015. The hospital was “accidentally struck” by US bombs after Afghan forces called for air support, said Gen. John Campbell, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan.Hide Caption 49 of 60American service members ride in a helicopter on the way to the Bagram Air Base near Kabul in September 2017. President Donald Trump had recently announced a plan to increase troops in the country.American service members ride in a helicopter on the way to the Bagram Air Base near Kabul in September 2017. President Donald Trump had recently announced a plan to increase troops in the country. Photos: America's longest warAmerican service members ride in a helicopter on the way to the Bagram Air Base near Kabul in September 2017. President Donald Trump had recently announced a plan to increase troops in the country.Hide Caption 50 of 60President Donald Trump visits Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base in November 2019.President Donald Trump visits Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base in November 2019. Photos: America's longest warPresident Donald Trump visits Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base in November 2019.Hide Caption 51 of 60A US Army carry team moves the transfer case containing the remains of Sgt. 1st Class Michael Goble during a dignified transfer at Delaware's Dover Air Force Base in December 2019. Goble, who was from Washington Township, New Jersey, was killed during combat in Afghanistan. A US Army carry team moves the transfer case containing the remains of Sgt. 1st Class Michael Goble during a dignified transfer at Delaware's Dover Air Force Base in December 2019. Goble, who was from Washington Township, New Jersey, was killed during combat in Afghanistan. Photos: America's longest warA US Army carry team moves the transfer case containing the remains of Sgt. 1st Class Michael Goble during a dignified transfer at Delaware’s Dover Air Force Base in December 2019. Goble, who was from Washington Township, New Jersey, was killed during combat in Afghanistan. Hide Caption 52 of 60Two children pass members of a Taliban Red Unit in Afghanistan's Laghman province in March 2020. A month earlier, the United States and the Taliban <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/29/politics/us-taliban-deal-signing/index.html" target="_blank">signed a historic agreement.</a>Two children pass members of a Taliban Red Unit in Afghanistan's Laghman province in March 2020. A month earlier, the United States and the Taliban <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/29/politics/us-taliban-deal-signing/index.html" target="_blank">signed a historic agreement.</a> Photos: America's longest warTwo children pass members of a Taliban Red Unit in Afghanistan’s Laghman province in March 2020. A month earlier, the United States and the Taliban signed a historic agreement.Hide Caption 53 of 60US soldiers retrieve their bags in Fort Drum, New York, in December 2020, after returning home from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.US soldiers retrieve their bags in Fort Drum, New York, in December 2020, after returning home from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan. Photos: America's longest warUS soldiers retrieve their bags in Fort Drum, New York, in December 2020, after returning home from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.Hide Caption 54 of 60President Joe Biden speaks from the White House Treaty Room in April 2021. Biden formally announced his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan before September 11.President Joe Biden speaks from the White House Treaty Room in April 2021. Biden formally announced his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan before September 11. Photos: America's longest warPresident Joe Biden speaks from the White House Treaty Room in April 2021. Biden formally announced his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan before September 11.Hide Caption 55 of 60A member of Afghanistan's security forces walks at Bagram Air Base after the last American troops <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/01/politics/us-military-bagram-airfield-afghanistan/index.html" target="_blank">departed the compound</a> in July 2021. It marked the end of the American presence at a sprawling compound that became the center of military power in Afghanistan.A member of Afghanistan's security forces walks at Bagram Air Base after the last American troops <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/01/politics/us-military-bagram-airfield-afghanistan/index.html" target="_blank">departed the compound</a> in July 2021. It marked the end of the American presence at a sprawling compound that became the center of military power in Afghanistan. Photos: America's longest warA member of Afghanistan’s security forces walks at Bagram Air Base after the last American troops departed the compound in July 2021. It marked the end of the American presence at a sprawling compound that became the center of military power in Afghanistan.Hide Caption 56 of 60A member of the Afghan Special Forces drives a Humvee during a combat mission against the Taliban in July 2021. Danish Siddiqui, the Reuters photographer who took this photo, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/16/media/danish-siddiqui-reuters-journalist-afghanistan/index.html" target="_blank">was killed days later</a> during clashes in Afghanistan. Siddiqui had been a photographer for Reuters since 2010, and he was the news agency's chief photographer in India. He was also part of a Reuters team that won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography covering Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar.A member of the Afghan Special Forces drives a Humvee during a combat mission against the Taliban in July 2021. Danish Siddiqui, the Reuters photographer who took this photo, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/16/media/danish-siddiqui-reuters-journalist-afghanistan/index.html" target="_blank">was killed days later</a> during clashes in Afghanistan. Siddiqui had been a photographer for Reuters since 2010, and he was the news agency's chief photographer in India. He was also part of a Reuters team that won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography covering Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar. Photos: America's longest warA member of the Afghan Special Forces drives a Humvee during a combat mission against the Taliban in July 2021. Danish Siddiqui, the Reuters photographer who took this photo, was killed days later during clashes in Afghanistan. Siddiqui had been a photographer for Reuters since 2010, and he was the news agency’s chief photographer in India. He was also part of a Reuters team that won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography covering Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar.Hide Caption 57 of 60Hanif, who was struck in the temple by a stray bullet, and his older brother, Mohammed, are seen at the Mirwais Regional Hospital in Kandahar in August 2021. Kandahar had been under siege for a month, and it would soon fall to the Taliban.Hanif, who was struck in the temple by a stray bullet, and his older brother, Mohammed, are seen at the Mirwais Regional Hospital in Kandahar in August 2021. Kandahar had been under siege for a month, and it would soon fall to the Taliban. Photos: America's longest warHanif, who was struck in the temple by a stray bullet, and his older brother, Mohammed, are seen at the Mirwais Regional Hospital in Kandahar in August 2021. Kandahar had been under siege for a month, and it would soon fall to the Taliban.Hide Caption 58 of 60Taliban fighters sit inside the presidential palace in Kabul in August 2021. The palace was <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/15/politics/biden-administration-taliban-kabul-afghanistan/index.html" target="_blank">handed over to the Taliban</a> after being vacated hours earlier by Afghan government officials.  Many of Afghanistan's major cities had already fallen to the insurgent group with little to no resistance.Taliban fighters sit inside the presidential palace in Kabul in August 2021. The palace was <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/15/politics/biden-administration-taliban-kabul-afghanistan/index.html" target="_blank">handed over to the Taliban</a> after being vacated hours earlier by Afghan government officials.  Many of Afghanistan's major cities had already fallen to the insurgent group with little to no resistance. Photos: America's longest warTaliban fighters sit inside the presidential palace in Kabul in August 2021. The palace was handed over to the Taliban after being vacated hours earlier by Afghan government officials. Many of Afghanistan’s major cities had already fallen to the insurgent group with little to no resistance.Hide Caption 59 of 60People climb atop a plane at Kabul's international airport after the Taliban retook the capital a day earlier. Hundreds of people<a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/16/middleeast/kabul-afghanistan-withdrawal-taliban-intl/index.html" target="_blank"> </a>poured onto the tarmac, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/16/middleeast/kabul-afghanistan-withdrawal-taliban-intl/index.html" target="_blank">desperately seeking a route out of Afghanistan.</a>People climb atop a plane at Kabul's international airport after the Taliban retook the capital a day earlier. Hundreds of people<a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/16/middleeast/kabul-afghanistan-withdrawal-taliban-intl/index.html" target="_blank"> </a>poured onto the tarmac, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/16/middleeast/kabul-afghanistan-withdrawal-taliban-intl/index.html" target="_blank">desperately seeking a route out of Afghanistan.</a> Photos: America's longest warPeople climb atop a plane at Kabul’s international airport after the Taliban retook the capital a day earlier. Hundreds of people poured onto the tarmac, desperately seeking a route out of Afghanistan.Hide Caption 60 of 6001 afghanistan war UNF02 afghanistan war UNF03 afghanistan war UNF04 afghanistan war UNF05 afghanistan war UNF06 afghanistan war UNF07 afghanistan war UNF08 afghanistan war UNF09 afghanistan war UNF10 afghanistan war UNF11 afghanistan war UNF12 afghanistan war UNF13 afghanistan war UNF14 afghanistan war UNF15 afghanistan war UNF16 afghanistan war UNF17 afghanistan war UNF18 afghanistan war UNF19 afghanistan war UNF20 afghanistan war UNF21 afghanistan war UNF22 afghanistan war UNF23 afghanistan war UNF24 afghanistan war UNF25 afghanistan war UNF26 afghanistan war UNF27 afghanistan war UNF28 afghanistan war UNF29 afghanistan war UNF30b afghanistan war UNF31 afghanistan war UNF32 afghanistan war UNF33 afghanistan war UNF34 afghanistan war UNF35 afghanistan war UNF36 afghanistan war UNF37 afghanistan war UNF38 afghanistan war UNF39 afghanistan war UNF40 afghanistan war UNF41 afghanistan war UNF42 afghanistan war UNF43 afghanistan war UNF44 afghanistan war UNF45 afghanistan war UNF46 afghanistan war UNF47 afghanistan war UNF48 afghanistan war UNF49 afghanistan war UNF50 afghanistan war UNF51 afghanistan war UNF52 afghanistan war UNF53 afghanistan war UNF54 afghanistan war UNF55 afghanistan war UNF01 bagram air base 0705afghanistan 071121 FILEafghanistan 080521 FILE11 afghanistan 0815 kabul07 afghanistan 0816 kabulYet if that truly is the case, Biden left unanswered a myriad of questions about how events spiraled out of control so swiftly, saying only that the process of withdrawing troops had been “hard and messy.”He has not shown any sign — publicly or, aides say, in private — that he believes his own decision to pull troops from Afghanistan helped cause the current crisis. Instead, he has placed the blame elsewhere: the Afghan military for falling apart, former President Donald Trump for agreeing to a deal with the Taliban and his predecessors for expanding a mission in a country without any consideration of how to end it.He lashed out sharply at Ghani, saying the Afghan leader “flatly refused” Biden’s advice on seeking a political settlement with the Taliban and was “wrong” on the strength of the Afghan military.”I know my decision will be criticized, but I would rather take all that criticism than pass this decision onto another president of the United States,” he said in his speech.While he walked out of the East Room without answering questions from reporters, key members of Congress signaled their intent to get to the bottom of the crisis.Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said he and other lawmakers had “tough, but necessary questions about why we weren’t better prepared for a worst-case scenario involving such a swift and total collapse of the Afghan government and security forces.””We owe those answers to the American people,” Warner said, “and to all those who served and sacrificed so much.”Doubling down Since the moment he walked into the Oval Office seven months ago, Biden was determined to see that his presidency would do what his three predecessors did not: end America’s longest war. He surrounded himself with top advisers who shared that core belief, which now raises a question even among some Democrats about whether their loyalty kept them from taking seriously the warnings about the consequences of a swift withdrawal.“No one disagrees with the decision to leave Afghanistan — literally almost no one,” a former Obama national security official told CNN on Monday. “But executing that decision was their responsibility and they were blindsided.”In the White House, few advisers are closer to Biden than Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan, both of whom have spent years working for him. They appeared on television this week to defend their boss’ decision to end the war.In pictures: The Taliban take over AfghanistanIn pictures: The Taliban take over Afghanistan Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanTaliban fighters sit inside the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday, August 15. The palace was <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/15/politics/biden-administration-taliban-kabul-afghanistan/index.html" target="_blank">handed over to the Taliban</a> after being vacated hours earlier by Afghan government officials.Taliban fighters sit inside the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday, August 15. The palace was <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/15/politics/biden-administration-taliban-kabul-afghanistan/index.html" target="_blank">handed over to the Taliban</a> after being vacated hours earlier by Afghan government officials. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanTaliban fighters sit inside the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday, August 15. The palace was handed over to the Taliban after being vacated hours earlier by Afghan government officials.Hide Caption 1 of 30People climb atop a plane at the international airport in Kabul on Monday, August 16. Hundreds of people<a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/16/middleeast/kabul-afghanistan-withdrawal-taliban-intl/index.html" target="_blank"> were on the tarmac, trying to find a way out of the country.</a>People climb atop a plane at the international airport in Kabul on Monday, August 16. Hundreds of people<a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/16/middleeast/kabul-afghanistan-withdrawal-taliban-intl/index.html" target="_blank"> were on the tarmac, trying to find a way out of the country.</a> Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanPeople climb atop a plane at the international airport in Kabul on Monday, August 16. Hundreds of people were on the tarmac, trying to find a way out of the country.Hide Caption 2 of 30Afghans rush to the airport in Kabul as they try to flee the capital on August 16.Afghans rush to the airport in Kabul as they try to flee the capital on August 16. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanAfghans rush to the airport in Kabul as they try to flee the capital on August 16.Hide Caption 3 of 30A man in Islamabad, Pakistan, reads news of Kabul's fall on August 16.A man in Islamabad, Pakistan, reads news of Kabul's fall on August 16. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanA man in Islamabad, Pakistan, reads news of Kabul’s fall on August 16.Hide Caption 4 of 30Afghans sit on the tarmac as they wait to leave the airport in Kabul on August 16.Afghans sit on the tarmac as they wait to leave the airport in Kabul on August 16. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanAfghans sit on the tarmac as they wait to leave the airport in Kabul on August 16.Hide Caption 5 of 30This satellite photo shows swarms of people on the tarmac at Kabul's international airport on August 16.This satellite photo shows swarms of people on the tarmac at Kabul's international airport on August 16. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanThis satellite photo shows swarms of people on the tarmac at Kabul’s international airport on August 16.Hide Caption 6 of 30An Afghan soldier, who didn't want to use his name, is seen at an outpost in Kabul on Sunday, August 15. He looked at the city below and said, "This is like a quick death," referring to the fall of Kabul. He said it was going to be a hard moment for him when he removes his uniform permanently after 10 years of service.An Afghan soldier, who didn't want to use his name, is seen at an outpost in Kabul on Sunday, August 15. He looked at the city below and said, "This is like a quick death," referring to the fall of Kabul. He said it was going to be a hard moment for him when he removes his uniform permanently after 10 years of service. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanAn Afghan soldier, who didn’t want to use his name, is seen at an outpost in Kabul on Sunday, August 15. He looked at the city below and said, “This is like a quick death,” referring to the fall of Kabul. He said it was going to be a hard moment for him when he removes his uniform permanently after 10 years of service.Hide Caption 7 of 30British forces arrive in Kabul on August 15 to assist British nationals in evacuating the city.British forces arrive in Kabul on August 15 to assist British nationals in evacuating the city. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanBritish forces arrive in Kabul on August 15 to assist British nationals in evacuating the city.Hide Caption 8 of 30A Taliban flag is seen on a motorcycle ridden by a Taliban fighter on August 15.A Taliban flag is seen on a motorcycle ridden by a Taliban fighter on August 15. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanA Taliban flag is seen on a motorcycle ridden by a Taliban fighter on August 15.Hide Caption 9 of 30A US military helicopter flies above the US Embassy in Kabul on August 15. The embassy was evacuated as Taliban fighters entered the city.A US military helicopter flies above the US Embassy in Kabul on August 15. The embassy was evacuated as Taliban fighters entered the city. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanA US military helicopter flies above the US Embassy in Kabul on August 15. The embassy was evacuated as Taliban fighters entered the city.Hide Caption 10 of 30Taliban fighters ride a Humvee near a Kabul roundabout on August 15.Taliban fighters ride a Humvee near a Kabul roundabout on August 15. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanTaliban fighters ride a Humvee near a Kabul roundabout on August 15.Hide Caption 11 of 30US President Joe Biden holds a virtual meeting with senior officials and members of his national security team on August 15. Biden was working from Maryland's Camp David, the presidential retreat where he was vacationing at the time.US President Joe Biden holds a virtual meeting with senior officials and members of his national security team on August 15. Biden was working from Maryland's Camp David, the presidential retreat where he was vacationing at the time. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanUS President Joe Biden holds a virtual meeting with senior officials and members of his national security team on August 15. Biden was working from Maryland’s Camp David, the presidential retreat where he was vacationing at the time.Hide Caption 12 of 30A traffic jam is seen in Kabul on August 15 as some Afghans were looking to flee the city.A traffic jam is seen in Kabul on August 15 as some Afghans were looking to flee the city. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanA traffic jam is seen in Kabul on August 15 as some Afghans were looking to flee the city.Hide Caption 13 of 30Taliban fighters are seen in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Saturday, August 14. The Taliban had seized Kandahar, Afghanistan's second-largest city, and a number of other provincial capitals on Friday. The city, which lies in the south of the country, had been besieged by the Taliban for weeks. Many observers <a href="https://www.cnn.com/world/live-news/afghanistan-taliban-us-troops-intl-08-13-21/index.html" target="_blank">considered its fall as the beginning of the end</a> for the country's government.Taliban fighters are seen in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Saturday, August 14. The Taliban had seized Kandahar, Afghanistan's second-largest city, and a number of other provincial capitals on Friday. The city, which lies in the south of the country, had been besieged by the Taliban for weeks. Many observers <a href="https://www.cnn.com/world/live-news/afghanistan-taliban-us-troops-intl-08-13-21/index.html" target="_blank">considered its fall as the beginning of the end</a> for the country's government. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanTaliban fighters are seen in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Saturday, August 14. The Taliban had seized Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, and a number of other provincial capitals on Friday. The city, which lies in the south of the country, had been besieged by the Taliban for weeks. Many observers considered its fall as the beginning of the end for the country’s government.Hide Caption 14 of 30People wait to cross the Afghan-Pakistani border at Chaman, Pakistan, on Friday, August 13. The border crossing was closed for several days before it was reopened.People wait to cross the Afghan-Pakistani border at Chaman, Pakistan, on Friday, August 13. The border crossing was closed for several days before it was reopened. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanPeople wait to cross the Afghan-Pakistani border at Chaman, Pakistan, on Friday, August 13. The border crossing was closed for several days before it was reopened.Hide Caption 15 of 30Displaced Afghans from the country's northern provinces arrive at a makeshift camp in Kabul on Tuesday, August 10. Provincial capitals in the north were among the first to fall to the Taliban.Displaced Afghans from the country's northern provinces arrive at a makeshift camp in Kabul on Tuesday, August 10. Provincial capitals in the north were among the first to fall to the Taliban. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanDisplaced Afghans from the country’s northern provinces arrive at a makeshift camp in Kabul on Tuesday, August 10. Provincial capitals in the north were among the first to fall to the Taliban.Hide Caption 16 of 30Shops in Kunduz, Afghanistan, are damaged after fighting between Taliban militants and Afghan military forces on August 8. Kunduz was <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/08/asia/afghanistan-taliban-kunduz-intl/index.html" target="_blank">the first major city to fall to the Taliban</a> since they began their offensive in May.Shops in Kunduz, Afghanistan, are damaged after fighting between Taliban militants and Afghan military forces on August 8. Kunduz was <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/08/asia/afghanistan-taliban-kunduz-intl/index.html" target="_blank">the first major city to fall to the Taliban</a> since they began their offensive in May. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanShops in Kunduz, Afghanistan, are damaged after fighting between Taliban militants and Afghan military forces on August 8. Kunduz was the first major city to fall to the Taliban since they began their offensive in May.Hide Caption 17 of 30Hanif, who was struck in the temple by a stray bullet, and his older brother, Mohammed, are seen at the Mirwais Regional Hospital in Kandahar on August 5. Kandahar had been under siege for a month.Hanif, who was struck in the temple by a stray bullet, and his older brother, Mohammed, are seen at the Mirwais Regional Hospital in Kandahar on August 5. Kandahar had been under siege for a month. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanHanif, who was struck in the temple by a stray bullet, and his older brother, Mohammed, are seen at the Mirwais Regional Hospital in Kandahar on August 5. Kandahar had been under siege for a month.Hide Caption 18 of 30An Afghan security officer stands guard at the site of a car bomb explosion in Kabul on August 4. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/03/middleeast/taliban-afghanistan-us-airstrikes-helmand-herat-intl/index.html" target="_blank">A car bomb exploded near the home of Afghanistan's acting defense minister</a> the day before. In the weeks prior, Kabul had largely been spared from the violence hitting other parts of Afghanistan.An Afghan security officer stands guard at the site of a car bomb explosion in Kabul on August 4. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/03/middleeast/taliban-afghanistan-us-airstrikes-helmand-herat-intl/index.html" target="_blank">A car bomb exploded near the home of Afghanistan's acting defense minister</a> the day before. In the weeks prior, Kabul had largely been spared from the violence hitting other parts of Afghanistan. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanAn Afghan security officer stands guard at the site of a car bomb explosion in Kabul on August 4. A car bomb exploded near the home of Afghanistan’s acting defense minister the day before. In the weeks prior, Kabul had largely been spared from the violence hitting other parts of Afghanistan.Hide Caption 19 of 30An Afghan woman and her children carry their belongings after fleeing their home in Kandahar on August 4.An Afghan woman and her children carry their belongings after fleeing their home in Kandahar on August 4. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanAn Afghan woman and her children carry their belongings after fleeing their home in Kandahar on August 4.Hide Caption 20 of 30An Afghan militia fighter looks out for Taliban insurgents at an outpost in Afghanistan's Balkh Province on July 15.An Afghan militia fighter looks out for Taliban insurgents at an outpost in Afghanistan's Balkh Province on July 15. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanAn Afghan militia fighter looks out for Taliban insurgents at an outpost in Afghanistan’s Balkh Province on July 15.Hide Caption 21 of 30US Gen. Austin S. Miller, left, greets Gen. Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, Afghanistan's defense minister, during a change-of-command ceremony in Kabul on July 12. Miller, the top American general in Afghanistan, was stepping down, a symbolic moment as the United States neared the end of its <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2021/04/14/middleeast/gallery/afghanistan-war/index.html" target="_blank">20-year-old war in the country.</a>US Gen. Austin S. Miller, left, greets Gen. Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, Afghanistan's defense minister, during a change-of-command ceremony in Kabul on July 12. Miller, the top American general in Afghanistan, was stepping down, a symbolic moment as the United States neared the end of its <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2021/04/14/middleeast/gallery/afghanistan-war/index.html" target="_blank">20-year-old war in the country.</a> Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanUS Gen. Austin S. Miller, left, greets Gen. Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, Afghanistan’s defense minister, during a change-of-command ceremony in Kabul on July 12. Miller, the top American general in Afghanistan, was stepping down, a symbolic moment as the United States neared the end of its 20-year-old war in the country.Hide Caption 22 of 30A member of the Afghan Special Forces drives a Humvee during a combat mission against the Taliban on July 11. Danish Siddiqui, the Reuters photographer who took this photo, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/16/media/danish-siddiqui-reuters-journalist-afghanistan/index.html" target="_blank">was killed days later</a> during clashes in Afghanistan. Siddiqui had been a photographer for Reuters since 2010, and he was the news agency's chief photographer in India. He was also part of a Reuters team that won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography covering Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar.A member of the Afghan Special Forces drives a Humvee during a combat mission against the Taliban on July 11. Danish Siddiqui, the Reuters photographer who took this photo, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/16/media/danish-siddiqui-reuters-journalist-afghanistan/index.html" target="_blank">was killed days later</a> during clashes in Afghanistan. Siddiqui had been a photographer for Reuters since 2010, and he was the news agency's chief photographer in India. He was also part of a Reuters team that won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography covering Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanA member of the Afghan Special Forces drives a Humvee during a combat mission against the Taliban on July 11. Danish Siddiqui, the Reuters photographer who took this photo, was killed days later during clashes in Afghanistan. Siddiqui had been a photographer for Reuters since 2010, and he was the news agency’s chief photographer in India. He was also part of a Reuters team that won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography covering Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar.Hide Caption 23 of 30A member of the Afghan Special Forces prays on a highway before a combat mission in Afghanistan's Kandahar province on July 11.A member of the Afghan Special Forces prays on a highway before a combat mission in Afghanistan's Kandahar province on July 11. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanA member of the Afghan Special Forces prays on a highway before a combat mission in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province on July 11.Hide Caption 24 of 30An internally displaced Afghan girl peers out of a makeshift tent at a camp on the outskirts of Mazar-i-Sharif on July 8.An internally displaced Afghan girl peers out of a makeshift tent at a camp on the outskirts of Mazar-i-Sharif on July 8. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanAn internally displaced Afghan girl peers out of a makeshift tent at a camp on the outskirts of Mazar-i-Sharif on July 8.Hide Caption 25 of 30Afghan commandos look out from a window at a home in Kunduz on July 6. The Taliban were moving rapidly to take over districts in northern Afghanistan.Afghan commandos look out from a window at a home in Kunduz on July 6. The Taliban were moving rapidly to take over districts in northern Afghanistan. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanAfghan commandos look out from a window at a home in Kunduz on July 6. The Taliban were moving rapidly to take over districts in northern Afghanistan.Hide Caption 26 of 30A member of Afghanistan's security forces walks at Bagram Air Base on July 5 after the last American troops <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/01/politics/us-military-bagram-airfield-afghanistan/index.html" target="_blank">departed the compound.</a> It marked the end of the American presence at a sprawling compound that became the center of military power in Afghanistan.A member of Afghanistan's security forces walks at Bagram Air Base on July 5 after the last American troops <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/01/politics/us-military-bagram-airfield-afghanistan/index.html" target="_blank">departed the compound.</a> It marked the end of the American presence at a sprawling compound that became the center of military power in Afghanistan. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanA member of Afghanistan’s security forces walks at Bagram Air Base on July 5 after the last American troops departed the compound. It marked the end of the American presence at a sprawling compound that became the center of military power in Afghanistan.Hide Caption 27 of 30Hundreds of armed men attend a gathering on the outskirts of Kabul on June 23 to announce their support for Afghan security forces and say that they are ready to fight against the Taliban.Hundreds of armed men attend a gathering on the outskirts of Kabul on June 23 to announce their support for Afghan security forces and say that they are ready to fight against the Taliban. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanHundreds of armed men attend a gathering on the outskirts of Kabul on June 23 to announce their support for Afghan security forces and say that they are ready to fight against the Taliban.Hide Caption 28 of 30A helicopter is loaded onto a US Air Force plane as American forces carry out their withdrawal from Afghanistan on June 16. A helicopter is loaded onto a US Air Force plane as American forces carry out their withdrawal from Afghanistan on June 16. Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanA helicopter is loaded onto a US Air Force plane as American forces carry out their withdrawal from Afghanistan on June 16. Hide Caption 29 of 30US President Joe Biden, speaking from the White House Treaty Room on April 14, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/14/middleeast/gallery/afghanistan-war/index.html" target="_blank">formally announces his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan</a> before September 11. "I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats," Biden said. "I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth." US President Joe Biden, speaking from the White House Treaty Room on April 14, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/14/middleeast/gallery/afghanistan-war/index.html" target="_blank">formally announces his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan</a> before September 11. "I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats," Biden said. "I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth." Photos: The Taliban take over AfghanistanUS President Joe Biden, speaking from the White House Treaty Room on April 14, formally announces his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan before September 11. “I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats,” Biden said. “I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth.” Hide Caption 30 of 3001 Taliban Afghanistan UNF02 Taliban Afghanistan UNF03 Taliban Afghanistan UNF RESTRICTED04 Taliban Afghanistan UNF05 Taliban Afghanistan UNF07 Taliban Afghanistan UNF08 Taliban Afghanistan UNF RESTRICTED09 Taliban Afghanistan UNF RESTRICTED10 Taliban Afghanistan UNF RESTRICTED11 Taliban Afghanistan UNF12 Taliban Afghanistan UNF RESTRICTED13 Taliban Afghanistan UNF14 Taliban Afghanistan UNF RESTRICTED15 Taliban Afghanistan UNF RESTRICTED16 Taliban Afghanistan UNF RESTRICTED17 Taliban Afghanistan UNF18 Taliban Afghanistan UNF19 Taliban Afghanistan UNF RESTRICTED20 Taliban Afghanistan UNF21 Taliban Afghanistan UNF RESTRICTED22 Taliban Afghanistan UNF23 Taliban Afghanistan UNF RESTRICTED24 Taliban Afghanistan UNF25 Taliban Afghanistan UNF26 Taliban Afghanistan UNF27 Taliban Afghanistan UNF RESTRICTED28 Taliban Afghanistan UNF29 Taliban Afghanistan UNF30 Taliban Afghanistan UNF31 Taliban Afghanistan UNFOther advisers, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley, have spent less time in Biden’s orbit. When the President was weighing an Afghanistan decision in the spring, Milley was among the loudest voices advocating for a continued US force presence in Afghanistan.Biden rejected that view, even as generals warned of the potential for a Taliban takeover. Whether it was a miscalculation, a failure of intelligence or some combination of both, the President now faces a credibility crisis on one of his strongest calling cards: foreign policy.”You cannot defend the execution here,” said David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Obama who participated in deliberations on Afghanistan early in that administration. “This has been a disaster and everybody — anybody with a beating heart — watching these scenes of people desperately swarming the airport trying to get out ahead of the slaughter that they anticipate from the Taliban, you know, it is heartbreaking. It is depressing. And it’s a failure.””He needs to own that failure,” said Axelrod, who is a CNN senior political commentator. “He’s the commander in chief.”Officials say driving the President’s thinking is an overriding belief that, like him, most Americans are tired of the prolonged conflict in Afghanistan. His advisers have been confident over the past months that the American public was behind him in his decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan.An ABC News/Ipsos poll in July found 55% of US adults approved of the way Biden was handling the withdrawal; in a May Quinnipiac University poll, 62% of US adults approved of Biden’s decision to bring home all US troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021.Some White House officials have also privately noted that as the country continues to battle Covid-19 and the economy shrugs off the lingering effects of the pandemic, events unfolding thousands of miles away are hardly at the forefront of Americans’ minds.

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