Psaki skips Afghanistan in list of Biden's 'biggest foreign policy successes'

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki championed the administration’s work over the last year to bolster U.S. ties with foreign partners as its “biggest” successes this year, but omitted the chaotic withdrawal ending the 20-year war in Afghanistan.

The withdrawal from Afghanistan meant the official closure to the longest war in U.S. history – a feat Psaki labeled a “success” earlier this year. But in response to a question Thursday about the administration’s “single biggest foreign policy success” this year, the chief White House spokesperson gave three answers, leaving out her previous praise for the Afghanistan exit.

The Biden administration on Monday admitted it left hundreds more U.S. citizens behind in Afghanistan after chaotic withdrawal. The numbers, disclosed in a press release from the State Department, are drastically higher than the estimates President Biden gave regarding the number of Americans left behind in Afghanistan after U.S. forces left the country. 

In addition, a suicide bomb attack outside the Abbey Gate at Kabul’s airport in Afghanistan on Aug. 26 killed 13 U.S. service members and injured at least 18 more, U.S. officials said – making it the deadliest day for U.S. troops in 10 years.

In a tweet, Psaki first pointed to the work the administration has done “reclaiming our leadership role in international institutions” and reaffirming ties with foreign partners to address “the biggest challenges of our time.” 

Psaki championed the administration’s role in delivering vaccines not only nationwide but globally. She said the U.S. has been a “driving” force in encouraging economic recovery following the pandemic. 

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 14: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House 
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

She additionally pointed to the U.S.’s renewed involvement on top issues like climate change as President Biden has reentered the Paris Climate Agreement, pushed climate-forward initiatives in his Build Back Better plan and agreed to work with the UN to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

“Restoring our alliances, including with Europe,” Psaki said while listing the second-biggest win for the administration. “We have resolved significant trade disputes, including on airplanes, steel, and aluminum, and we have done so in a way that protects our workers, advances our shared values, and strengthens our ability to compete.”

Despite Psaki’s praise, foreign relations with top U.S. adversaries have reached heightened tensions under the Biden administration.

President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, arrive to meet at the "Villa la Grange," in Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021. 
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Russia has continued to build up its military force along the Ukrainian border, China has engaged in increasingly aggressive actions in the Pacific and Iran has yet to re-enter a nuclear agreement or comply with the existing Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Critics of the Biden administration have claimed that U.S. adversaries are taking advantage of Biden’s weak foreign policy stances especially in the wake of the widely criticized exit from Afghanistan. 

The administration in turn has argued they are reeling from bad policy decisions leftover from the Trump administration, including the trade war with China, the U.S.’s abandonment of the Iranian nuclear agreement, and a lackluster plan to stave off a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.  

A C-17 Globemaster takes off as Taliban fighters secure the outer perimeter, alongside the American controlled side of the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021. (MARCUS YAM / LOS ANGELES TIMES)

But Psaki pointed to new ties that have come out of these increasingly strained geopolitical tussles as a win for the Biden administration. 

“In the Indo-Pacific, we have developed new platforms like AUKUS and elevated the Quad,” she said in reference to partnerships that have formed in response the Chinese aggression in the South China Sea. 

“We are working more closely with our allies and partners in the region on defense, security, and economic interests while deepening connections between our European and Indo-Pacific allies,” she added.

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