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Biden overruled Blinken and Austin’s attempts to extend US presence in Afghanistan, new Woodward/Costa book says

The book explores Biden’s dedication to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan regardless of resistance from prime advisers. Biden was firm on getting US troops out, having wrestled with the difficulty for almost 20 years — and having watched, as vice chairman, army and nationwide safety leaders field in then-President Barack Obama in his first yr when he needed to finish the US battle in Afghanistan.

Biden believed the army manipulated Obama.

“The military doesn’t fuck around with me,” Biden advised others in 2009, implying they’d with Obama, in accordance to the book.

CNN obtained a replica of ‘Peril” ahead of its September 21 release.

Woodward and Costa write that Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin both pushed for a slower withdrawal. After a March meeting of NATO ministers, Blinken changed his recommendation about removing all US troops.

“Previously, he had been foursquare with Biden for a full withdrawal,” the authors write. “His new suggestion was to extend the mission with US troops for some time to see if it might yield a political settlement. Buy time for negotiations.”

Blinken told Biden on a call from Brussels he was hearing from the other NATO ministers “in quadraphonic sound,” or surround sound, that the US should leverage its departure to gain concrete steps toward a political settlement, according to the book.

Austin also came up with a new proposal at around the same time, the authors write, proposing a “gated” withdrawal in three or four stages that would provide leverage for diplomatic negotiations.

President Joe Biden speaks as Antony Blinken, secretary of state, left, and Lloyd Austin,  secretary of defense, right, listen during a cabinet meeting at the White House, July 20, 2021.

But Biden was unconvinced and decided not to permit “mission creep” to justify keeping US troops there. “Our mission is to cease Afghanistan from being a base for attacking the homeland and US allies by al Qaeda or different terrorist teams, not to ship a demise blow to the Taliban,” Biden said, according to the book, during one of 25 National Security Council meetings held during a robust foreign policy review.

While much of “Peril” focuses on the end of the Trump presidency and his hold on the GOP after leaving office, Woodward and Costa devote a significant portion of the book to the Biden administration. The book traces the arc of Biden’s initial decision to run for the White House into the first months of his presidency, detailing conversations with lawmakers including GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia as Biden negotiates a massive Covid-19 relief package.

Trump’s legacy looms throughout, Woodward and Costa write.

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Biden and his advisers hated to utter Trump’s identify, Woodward and Costa write, and aides “continuously warned one another to please keep away from the ‘T’ phrase.” In the White House one night, Biden discovered a room where a huge screen covered the wall, which Trump used to virtually play famous golf courses, according to the book.

“What a fucking asshole,” Biden once said of Trump, according to the authors.

Trump was also consumed with Biden after leaving office, according to the book. He told a group of friends and donors he golfed with that he was thinking of using his private plane to taunt Biden and was considering getting it painted in the red-white-and-blue paint scheme like the Air Force One redesign that was proposed during the Trump administration.

“That’s my model. I do not do the company jet factor,” Trump said, according to the book. “I’m not going to present up in a little bit Gulfstream like a fucking CEO.”

‘Unfinished business’

“Presidents dwell in the unfinished enterprise of their predecessors,” Woodward and Costa write in “Peril.” For Biden, that meant stepping into the White House with a pandemic still raging, just weeks after the violent insurrection on January 6 at the US Capitol.

It wasn’t a comfortable transition. Biden started privately calling the White House “the tomb,” and he found the White House cold and lonely, according to the book.

“He just isn’t snug residing in the White House,” Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, told others, according to the authors.

Woodward and Costa write that Biden summoned Klain to Delaware to talk about his decision to run in March 2019. “I simply really feel like I’ve to do that,” Biden said. “Biden’s subsequent phrases would stick without end with Klain,” the authors write: “This man simply is not actually an American president.”

The bitter campaign against Trump alienated Biden from some Republicans he was once close with. Woodward and Costa write that Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, spoke to Biden in the days after the 2020 election, but the conversation soured when it turned to Graham’s attacks on his son, Hunter Biden.

Woodward/Costa book details GOP infighting over how to handle Trump after election loss

“Graham made no apologies,” the authors write, adding that Biden believed Graham had “crossed a purple line.”

“Biden and Graham wouldn’t discuss once more for months — and if Biden had something to do with it, they probably would by no means discuss once more,” Woodward and Costa write.

Biden could be testy at times, the authors write, and the book highlights an incident in which Biden snapped at a question from CNN’s Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins in June, which Biden apologized for later in the day.

Biden’s tendency toward gaffes prompted Klain and other aides to try to keep Biden away from unscripted events or long interviews, Woodward and Costa write. “They referred to as the impact ‘the wall,’ a cocooning of the president.”

Biden’s aides could not help him when he stumbled on the steps up to Air Force One during a March trip to Atlanta. Woodward and Costa write that Biden’s stumble, which was replayed repeatedly on conservative media, frustrated the President.

“Fuck,” Biden whispered once aboard Air Force One. “Fuck!” he said, “loud sufficient for others to hear him,” in accordance to Woodward and Costa.

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