Show an ad over header. AMP

I am the FIRST

Biden doesn’t plan to fire anyone over Kabul chaos, sources say

President Biden isn't inclined to fire any senior national security officials over the chaos in Kabul unless the situation drastically deteriorates or there's significant loss of American life, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Dismissing national security advisor Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin or CIA Director William Burns would be tantamount to admitting a mistake, and the president stands by his decision.

  • While acknowledging the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has been “messy” and the Taliban captured the country quicker than he anticipated, Biden is deeply committed to his policy, the people tell Axios.
  • "I think that history is going to record this was the logical, rational, right decision to make," Biden said Sunday afternoon at the White House.
  • "Let me be clear: The evacuation of thousands of people from Kabul was going to be hard and painful no matter when it started, when we began. It would have been true if we had started a month ago — or a month from now. There's no way to evacuate this many people without pain and loss of heartbreaking images you see on television. It's just a fact."

Between the lines: Over 40 years in Washington, Biden has a reputation of being hard and demanding on his staff but also loyal. He raises his voice yet rarely fires anyone.

  • Longtime advisers are doubtful any heads will roll but caution the dynamic could change if any Americans are killed by the Taliban or other radical Islamic groups.
  • Right now, the focus is on the mission at hand, leaving little time for political machinations or recriminations.
  • In a statement Sunday, the White House said Biden and his team had "discussed the ongoing and intensive diplomatic and military efforts to facilitate transit at third-country transit hubs, affirming the importance of the contributions that more than two dozen partner nations are making to this global effort."

The big picture: While scenes of desperation and despair continue outside Kabul's airport, the world has little visibility into what's happening in the rest of the country. There've been sporadic reports of Taliban reprisals against Afghans who aided the NATO coalition during the past 20 years.

  • The White House wants the focus to be on the successful air transport out of Kabul and has been giving regular updates on the evacuation. A pool report released Sunday said some 25,100 personnel have departed on military and coalition aircraft since Aug. 14.
  • The U.S. has rescued more than 100 Americans who couldn't get to the airport, with potential additional military operations planned for outside the wire, according to internal U.S. government documents reviewed by Axios.
  • At the airport gates, a handful of Afghans have presented U.S. passports that don’t belong to them, highlighting the challenge of the broader screening effort.

Go deeper: At senior levels of Biden’s White House, officials still blame President Trump for the peace deal he cut with the Taliban and privately insist the "cupboard was bare" for any plan to evacuate Americans.

  • The president’s first instinct was to publicly fault Trump and then Afghan forces for not fighting for their country, and he called out President Ashraf Ghani by name for fleeing the country.
  • But Biden must contend with stunning footage of babies being handed over barbed wire and Afghans falling from the sky after clinging to departing planes.
  • There's also the terrifying prospect of a terrorist attack by ISIS-K targeting Americans outside of the airport walls, or the crowds of Afghans trying to get in.

Driving the news: Lawmakers from both parties are already demanding answers, with some Republicans calling for Sullivan to be sacked.

  • Some House Democrats also are considering calling for Sullivan's removal, according to the New York Times.
  • House lawmakers, who return this week, will receive a briefing Monday.
  • Some GOP senators have branded the situation in Afghanistan worse than Benghazi, the diplomatic attack they used to investigate and castigate President Obama.

Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

Keep reading... Show less

Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

Keep reading... Show less

Scoop: Amazon quietly getting into live audio business

Amazon is investing heavily in a new live audio feature that's similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify's new live audio platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As with Amazon's efforts in podcasting and music subscriptions, the company sees live audio as a way to bolster the types of content it can offer through its voice assistant, Alexa, and its smart speaker products.

Keep reading... Show less

Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

The powerful hurricane that plunged New Orleans into darkness for what could be weeks is the latest sign that U.S. power systems are not ready for a warmer, more volatile world.

The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

Keep reading... Show less

"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

Keep reading... Show less

What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

Keep reading... Show less



Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories