Reports: Psaki was out of office as Biden wrestled with early optics on Afghanistan

As Afghanistan’s government crumbled over the weekend and the Taliban reasserted control over the war-torn nation, President Joe Biden was kicking back at Camp David in Maryland. As it turned out, his administration’s chief spokesperson also chose to go on vacation amid a massive foreign policy crisis.

Journalists attempting to contact White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Sunday for comment on the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul were summarily informed that she was “out of the office” and wouldn’t be returning until this coming weekend, BizPacReview reported Monday. 

At the time, it seemed that as the 20-year war in Afghanistan came to an ignominious conclusion, with the Taliban sacking Kabul and leaving Americans and their Afghan allies stranded, neither the president nor the voice of his administration could be bothered to answer Americans’ questions about it. Perhaps sensing the terrible optics of the situation, both were ultimately forced to cut their trips short.

Really bad timing

Psaki’s ill-timed vacation was first reported by Fox News after its reporters received automated replies from the press secretary following requests for comment on the spiraling situation.

“I will be out of the office from August 15th-August 22nd,” the messages read. The email also reportedly included instructions for journalists to contact lower-ranked members of the Biden communications team.

Becket Adams of the Washington Examiner reported receiving a similar automated response when he attempted to contact Psaki, and he minced no words in criticizing her for it.

“That the White House press secretary chose now, of all times, to go on vacation is astonishing, considering everything that happened this week building up to the fall of Kabul,” Adams complained in a Monday op-ed.

He went on: “Before we went into the weekend, the Taliban had already captured 69 of the country’s 407 districts, including those previously considered impenetrable government strongholds by American and Afghan officials. By Friday, the Taliban held 142 districts and was fighting for control of 170 more.”

“In other words,” the Examiner writer said, “Psaki couldn’t have picked a worse time to go on vacation.”

A vacation cut short

Unfortunately for Psaki, the grim reality of the situation eventually caught up with her. As noted, she was compelled to cut her trip short as the international crisis unfolded, per a report from The Washington Post.

The Post noted that “after spending the weekend working remotely — including helping to try to get U.S. journalists out of Afghanistan — [Psaki] returned to the White House on Monday to help manage the evolving situation, according to a person familiar with the situation.”

With her vacation now on the back burner, Psaki held a press briefing Tuesday. It remains to be seen, however, if she will remain on duty as the president’s chief spokeswoman until the crisis has concluded, or if she will seek escape from the rigors of her job once again while pertinent questions remain unanswered.

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