Fox News Host Confronts Blinken Over Biden's Claim Al Qaeda 'Gone' From Afghanistan

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace confronted Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday, asking him why President Joe Biden had claimed that Al Qaeda is "gone" from Afghanistan while the extremist group still remains active in the country.

The Biden administration has faced substantial criticism over the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, which resulted in the Taliban swiftly regaining control of the country. The U.S. has scrambled over the past week to evacuate thousands of Americans as well as Afghans who worked for the U.S. and its allies during the two decades-long war.

"The president said a few other things on Friday that are flat wrong," Wallace said during his interview with Blinken on Fox News Sunday.

"Here he is on the threat from Al Qaeda," the Fox News host said, before playing a clip from Biden's recent speech.

"What interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point with Al Qaeda gone?" the president asked in those Friday remarks.

Wallace then explained that a report released by the United Nations this summer showed that Al Qaeda is active in 15 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces. The host pointed out that General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also said earlier this year that he would "upgrade" the terror threat from Al Qaeda if the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan.

"What the president said just wasn't true," Wallace asserted.

Chris Wallace and Antony Blinken
In this screenshot, Fox News host Chris Wallace questions Secretary of State Antony Blinken over President Joe Biden's Friday claim that Al Qaeda is "gone" from Afghanistan during an interview on August 22. Fox News Sunday/screenshot

Blinken responded by saying the U.S. went to Afghanistan "20 years ago with one mission and one purpose in mind." The secretary of state said this objective was "to deal with" those who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001. He said that the U.S. brought former Al Qaeda Osama Bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the 2001 terror attacks, to "justice" more than a decade ago. Bin Laden was killed under the administration of former President Barack Obama in May 2011.

The secretary of state argued that the U.S. has been "successful" at diminishing the capabilities of Al Qaeda, saying this was Biden's point.

"But Mr. Secretary," Wallace interjected, "the president, sir, the president said Al Qaeda is 'gone.' Simple question, is Al Qaeda gone from Paki—from Afghanistan?" Wallace asked.

Blinken responded by saying: "Al Qaeda's capacity to do what it did on 9/11, to attack us, to attack our partners or allies from Afghanistan is vastly, vastly diminished."

"Is it gone?" Wallace again asked.

"Are there Al Qaeda members and remnants in Afghanistan, yes," Blinken replied. "But what the president was referring to was its capacity to do what it did on 9/11. And that capacity has been very successfully diminished."

The peace deal with the Taliban that led to the U.S. withdrawal was signed in February 2020 under former President Donald Trump. That agreement would have withdrawn all U.S. troops from the country in May of this year. When Biden took office, he pushed back the withdrawal deadline to September 11, then moved it forward to August 31. But the Taliban retook control of the country last Sunday, two weeks ahead of Biden's deadline.

The Taliban's swift takeover of the country took the Biden administration by surprise. Reports from intelligence and military analysts had said that the U.S.-backed government could collapse within one month to 90 days, but it fell before the U.S. withdrawal was even complete.

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.