CNN Launches Scathing Attack of Joe Biden Over Afghanistan Speech: 'Hollow Words'

CNN's Clarissa Ward said President Joe Biden's remarks would sound "hollow" to Afghans desperate to flee their homeland after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.

In a speech to the American people on Monday, Biden said the unfolding chaos—including people falling to their deaths after clinging to U.S. military planes in Kabul—was "gut-wrenching."

The president conceded that the events of the past week "did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated," but said he stood "squarely" behind his decision to withdraw U.S. troops and end America's longest war.

Biden also maintained that the U.S. would continue to support the Afghan people. "We will lead with our diplomacy, our international influence, and our humanitarian aid," he said. "We'll continue to push for regional diplomacy and engagement to prevent violence and instability. We'll continue to speak out for the basic rights of the Afghan people—of women and girls—just as we speak out all over the world."

Following the president's speech, CNN anchor Jake Tapper said Biden had been "forced to talk about the worsening crisis in Afghanistan, forced to speak to the nation after the calamity of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan."

Tapper also noted on his show that Biden had deflected much of the blame for the Taliban's swift takeover to Afghans. "The president said that the buck stopped with him, but, in fact, the speech was full of finger-pointing and blame, especially for the Afghans," Tapper said.

The anchor then asked Ward, CNN's Chief International Correspondent who has been reporting from Kabul in recent days, how she thought Afghans would view it.

"I think to Afghans, a lot of this will sound like hollow words, Jake," Ward responded. She said there would be "a lot of frustration" with Biden's speech because it didn't get to the core issue for Afghans.

Their grievance, she explained, was not about whether or not the U.S. should withdraw from Afghanistan, but the "catastrophic manner of this withdrawal."

Biden speaks on Afghanistan
US President Joe Biden speaks about the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House August 16, 2021, in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

"Plenty of Afghans understand that it's Afghanistan's duty to defend itself, that the U.S. couldn't fight this war for more decades. They understand that," she said.

"Their issue, their grievance is with... the catastrophic manner of this withdrawal. And there was very little there in terms of stepping up to the plate, assuming responsibility or even, dare I suggest it, issuing some kind of an apology to the Afghan people."

Ward added that she believes there will also be "some frustration or disappointment" about Biden's promises to continue advocating for the rights of Afghan people.

"Speaking out, unfortunately realistically is going to be very limited in terms of the effects it is going to have here on the ground in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan," she said. "He talked also about rallying the world to join in with the U.S."

Ward also noted that while the U.S. Embassy had been shut, Russia and China's embassies are still open.

Those countries are "still engaged," Ward said. "And the fact that we heard the State Department less than a week ago saying the embassy's not closing guys and the message is one of enduring partnership. Those words sound hollow.

"And because those words sound hollow, the words we heard from the president, I believe to many Afghans, will also sound hollow, Jake."