Richard Engel has described himself as “basically a pacifist.” But when it came to telling it like it was regarding the Afghanistan fiasco, NBC News’ chief foreign correspondent was taking no prisoners Sunday.
When on his MSNBC show this morning, Ali Velshi asked Engel whether it is surprising “not that it is happening, as much as how fast it is happening,” Engel flatly rejected the notion.
“No. Everyone keeps saying that. I’ve been listening all day: “oh my God, we’re shocked at how fast” — I’m not shocked at all! I thought Kabul was going to fall about now. And lots of people I spoke to believed that . . . It was well known that the security forces were collapsing, a month, two months, three months ago. So this feigned surprise–maybe it’s genuine surprise but if it is I don’t understand what it’s based on—it was quite clear that it was going to come to this.”
Engel’s statement debunks President Biden’s false assurance just last month that “the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”
It also refutes the claim by Secretary of State Tony Blinken, as he made the Sunday-show rounds today, to the effect that the Biden admin was surprised by the Afghan security forces’ unwillingness to fight.
In the clip, you’ll see Jonathan Capehart, on his MSNBC show this morning, replaying the Velshi-Engel exchange in the context of asking, “why was the Biden administration caught off-guard, so surprised by how quickly the Taliban raced through Afghanistan?”
To which Engel’s implied answer would be: the Biden admin wasn’t caught off guard—unless it was willfully ignoring the obvious.
Note: In another bit of tough truth-telling, Engel also reported this morning that “many will see this as a humiliating exit” for the United States. My only quibble would be to ask, “many”? Who doesn’t see this as a humiliating exit?
Richard Engel saying he was not at all shocked by the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan was sponsored in part by Kraft, Dove, and Jeep.
Here’s the transcript.
The Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart
10:19 am EDT
JONATHAN CAPEHART: I want to play what our colleague Richard Engel had to say earlier today about, basically, how I started off the program. Which is asking the question, aren’t people — why was the Biden administration caught off guard, so surprised by how quickly the Taliban raced through Afghanistan and is now entering Kabul? Have a listen to what he said and we’ll talk about it on the other side.
ALI VELSHI: It’s not that that is happening, as much as how fast it is happening. Would you agree with that?
RICHARD ENGEL: No. Everyone keeps saying that. I’ve been listening all day: “oh, my God, we’re shocked at how fast. I’m not shocked at all!
Last time I was here, I was looking at the calendar and figuring out — because now with Covid and travel, when you’re going to have to come back and how long you have to isolate. Covid makes you have to plan ahead a little bit on traveling.
And I thought Kabul was going to fall right around now. That was a gut instinct. And I think lots of people that I spoke to believed that. Last time I was here, I spoke to Afghan government officials, to Afghan military officials.
It was well known that the security services were collapsing a month, two months ago, three months ago. So, so this feigned surprise that — maybe it’s genuine surprise, but if it is, I don’t understand what it’s based on.
It was quite clear that it was going to come to this when you started to see the Taliban take territory without having to fight months ago. So, no, I’m not at all surprised by the speed. These things snowball. Once you have enough momentum and have enough weapons, nobody is going to stand up to you. And nobody did.