Lucas Tomlinson, a reporter for Fox News, hounded after John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, during a conference this past Saturday that was covering the Defense Department briefing over the crisis in Afghanistan and intensely questioning just how the administration could have gotten the situation “so wrong.”
Tomlinson even brought up the comments put forth by Kirby just two days prior to Kabul falling that “the city is not, right now, in any imminent threat environment.”
“How could you get that so wrong?” needled Tomlinson.
Kirby attempted to respond by claiming that his previous statements were “true” at “the moment that I said,” despite the fact that the cities in Afghanistan had been very quickly falling in the days leading up to the inevitable fall of Kabul and that the Taliban were only a few miles away from the main capital city.
Tomlinson continued to grind down Kirby by pressing on issues related to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s previous recommendations being entirely ignored by the elected leaders.
At the tail end of the press conference, Tomlinson put forth the question to Kirby, “Has the terrorist threat against the United States increased as the Taliban took over the country?”
Kirby refused to respond to the important question.
— Jason Rantz on KTTH Radio (@jasonrantz) August 21, 2021
A transcript of the event was provided by The Department of Defense:
REPORTER: John, two days before Kabul fell, you said from that podium, quote, ‘the city is not, right now, in any imminent threat environment.’ How could you get that so wrong?
MR. KIRBY: In the moment that I said it, Lucas, it was true. And I understand. I’ve seen the reactions out there on social media to what I said.
REPORTER: The city was surrounded [with] Taliban?
MR. KIRBY: In the moment that I said it, based on what we knew at the time, it was a true statement. And yes, two days later, things dramatically changed. I readily admit that. Things moved very, very quickly, Lucas. And as you heard the chairman up here just a few days ago say that — you know, that there was — there wasn’t any indication that, you know, that — that they had received that things could evolve as quickly as they did. But —
REPORTER: No indication? Cities have been falling all week, every day.
MR. KIRBY: Yes, I understand, Lucas. I understand. I understand. All I can tell you is in the moment that I made those remarks, they were accurate. [I am] committed 100 percent to being as truthful and as honest up here and as transparent as I can be. And I’m comfortable that while others may ridicule what I say and take issue with it, I’m comfortable that what I’m giving you is the best information I have the moment that I have it. And I would hope and understand that people would see that events have continued — did and have continued to evolve very, very quickly there.
To Courtney’s excellent line of questioning, the assessment — the threat is going to change and it could change literally by the hour. So we’re trying to give you the best we can as — and lean as far forward as we can in the moment. But that moment’s going to change.
REPORTER: …but it could be changing by the hour. You said there was no imminent threat of Kabul falling.
MR. KIRBY: That’s — again, I think I’ve answered the question.
REPORTER: So 10 years ago then-General Lloyd Austin as head of the U.S. Forces in Iraq recommended to the president not to pull troops out of Iraq. Months ago, now-Defense Secretary Austin recommended the same the same thing in Afghanistan. Is he frustrated that presidents are ignoring him?
MR. KIRBY: The secretary is 100 percent focused on the mission at hand right now, which is a noncombatant evacuation operation. And he’s comfortable that throughout this deliberation, his voice was heard. That he had an opportunity to provide his best advice and counsel to the Commander-in-Chief and to the national security team, as did other leaders here at the Pentagon. It was a very inclusive, very deliberate process, and the Secretary believes that the President was given the benefit of a lot of different views. Not just his, but a lot of different views.
And then the Commander-in-Chief made a decision. That’s how it works. That’s exactly how the process should work. A very calm and deliberate decision-making process. And once that decision is made, you execute. That’s the way this building operates. You execute, and that’s what we’re doing.
REPORTER: Is the Secretary frustrated that now not once but twice his advice has been ignored by the —
MR. KIRBY: The Secretary is focused on the mission at-hand, and not revisiting past decisions one way or another. You give your advice and a decision is made and you follow that decision. An order is given, you follow that order, and that’s what we’re doing. And as you heard the Secretary say, just after the President announced his decision in mid-April that he fully supports that decision. He’s been very clear about that.
REPORTER: Has the Secretary thought about resigning?
MR. KIRBY: No.
REPORTER: Quick one.
MR. KIRBY: We have to get going, Lucas.
REPORTER: — Has the terrorist threat against the United States increased as the Taliban took over the country?