Reported by CHRIS ENLOE | August 17, 2021
Matt Zeller, a former CIA officer and U.S. Army officer who served as an embedded combat adviser with the Afghan security forces, mocked MSNBC host Brian Williams to his face Monday for praising President Joe Biden’s speech on Afghanistan. Before asking Zeller — also a former Democratic candidate for Congress who admits he voted for Biden — his reaction to Biden’s speech, Williams claimed Biden “owned his decision” and “didn’t run from it.”
Zeller flatly disagreed.
“I hope he gets to own [Afghans’] deaths, too,” Zeller shot back. “I feel like I watched a different speech than the rest of you guys. I was appalled.”
“There was such a profound bold-faced lie in that speech — the idea that we planned for every contingency? I have been personally trying to tell this administration, since it took office, I’ve been trying to tell our government for years that this was coming,” Zeller continued. “We sent them plan after plan on how to evacuate these people. Nobody listened to us. They didn’t plan for the evacuation of our Afghan wartime allies; they’re trying to conduct it now at the 11th hour.”
Zeller continued, lambasting Biden:
The thing that they were most concerned about was the optics of a chaotic evacuation. Well, they got exactly what they were most concerned of by failing to do what was right when we could have done it. We had all the people and equipment in place to be able to save these people months ago, and we did nothing. I’m appalled that he thinks that we only need to take 2,000 people. There’s 86,000 people who are currently left behind in Afghanistan alone; we’ve identified all of them for the government. I have no idea why he claims that people don’t want to leave Afghanistan. I have a list of 14,000 names right now of people who want to get out of Afghanistan.
And the idea that the Afghan military should be blamed for this? Do you know how many casualties the Afghan military took in an average year? More than the United States did in 20. When you’re not getting paid on a regular basis, when you’re not getting fuel, when no one is supplying you with ammunition, and yet you’re still showing up to the fight? How dare us for having to blame these people for not having the audacity to be able to survive a Taliban onslaught.
No, no, no. What we need to be doing right now — and what I am appalled that the president didn’t say — was we need to be talking about how we’re going to get every single one of these people out.
The fight to uphold American obligations to Afghans who worked with U.S. forces is personal for Zeller, whose own life was saved in 2008 by his Afghan interpreter.
Later in the interview, Zeller made an impassioned case for saving every Afghan who helped America during its military campaign, saying the U.S. military should fight the Taliban until every such Afghan is rescued. But if Biden’s administration chooses to abandon them? “I’ll never forgive my country for doing this,” Zeller pledged.