President Joe Biden has fled Washington DC to hole up at his Delaware mansion for an extended weekend, even as multiple crises engulf his administration.
Biden left the White House before noon on Friday, hours before the Pentagon held a late-afternoon briefing to reveal that US forces had badly botched a drone strike in Kabul, killing 10 innocent civilians.
Meanwhile as the day unfolded, France recalled its ambassador to the US in outrage over the new AUKUS security pact, the US Food and Drug Administration rejected Biden’s call for widespread COVID booster shots, and a squalid camp of 12,000 Haitian migrants continued to grow near the border in Texas.
The Secret Service dropped Biden off at his mansion in Rehoboth Beach at 1.37pm, and he plans to spend the weekend there with the First Lady, with no events on his public schedule.
Biden arrives in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware on Friday for an extended weekend, even as multiple crises engulf his administration
A relative throws himself and weeps over the casket of Farzad, 12, who was one of 10 civilians killed by U.S. drone airstrikes
Haitian migrants use a dam to cross to and from the United States from Mexico on Friday in Del Rio, Texas. Thousands of Haitian migrants have assembled under and around a bridge in Del Rio
The migrants have set up a make-shift camp after successfully crossing from Mexico
DailyMail.com has reached out to the White House for comment.
White House press Secretary Jen Psaki has said in the past that presidents never fully go on vacation, noting that Biden travels with a national security aide and gets regularly briefed when he is out of the White House.
Before skipping town to get an early jump on the weekend, Biden did work from the Oval Office in the morning, convening a forum on climate change and receiving his daily intelligence briefing.
Hours after he arrived in Rehoboth Beach, the Pentagon made a stunning and embarrassing reversal, admitting that the August 29 drone strike in Kabul killed an innocent aid worker and nine of his family members, including seven children.
‘Our investigation now concludes that the strike was a tragic mistake,’ said the head of U.S. Central Command, Marine Corps General Frank McKenzie.
US officials had for weeks defended the botched strike, with Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark A. Milley calling it ‘righteous’ when pressed on civilian casualties.
Then, a dramatic and unprecedented diplomatic crisis erupted between France and the United States, with Paris recalling its top envoy in Washington DC for the first time in history.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves LeDrain announced the move to recall the ambassador Friday, saying it came in a request from French President Emmanuel Macron (pictured)
The French embassy event was supposed to commemorate the 1781 ‘Battle of the Capes when the French Navy delivered a decisive blow to Britain’s Royal Navy in the Revolutionary War. The Battle of Virgina Capes shows British forces on the right and French on the left
France was the first country to formally recognize the United States government with a treaty in 1778, and the two republics have long had close and friendly diplomatic relations.
But the French government is furious with the new security pact between Australia, the US and the UK, which saw Canberra cancel a $90 billion submarine contract with Paris.
Instead of French conventional diesel-electric submarines, Australia will now pursue nuclear-powered subs through the trilateral security pact known as AUKUS.
Ambassador Philippe Etienne tweeted the AUKUS arrangements are ‘directly affecting the vision we have of our alliances, of our partnerships and of the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe.’
‘It was really a stab in the back. We built a relationship of trust with Australia, and this trust was betrayed,’ said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. ‘This is not done between allies.’
French officials also canceled a gala planned for Friday night in DC, intended to celebrate the French navy’s aid to America’s fight for independence in 1781.
In another embarrassing blow to the administration, an FDA panel announced that it would not recommend COVID booster shots for the general population, after Biden had spent weeks vowing to begin administering boosters on September 20.
President Joe Biden steps out of a motorcade vehicle Friday before boarding Air Force One on the way to spend the weekend at his home in Rehoboth Beach
An FDA panel announced that it would not recommend COVID booster shots for the general population, after Biden had spent weeks vowing to begin boosters on September 20
An FDA advisory panel voted on Friday to recommend COVID-19 vaccine booster shots only for Americans 65 and older and those at high risk of severe illness, after overwhelmingly rejecting a call for broader approval.
Biden, who stoked the ire of FDA officials before announcing a mass booster campaign before the plan had regulatory approval, had touted the imminent start of COVID boosters as recently as a few days ago.
The White House attempted to put a positive spin on the FDA decision, framing it as one step in the march toward universal boosters.
‘Today was an important step forward in providing better protection to Americans from COVID-19,’ White House spokesperson Kevin Munoz said. ‘We stand ready to provide booster shots to eligible Americans once the process concludes at the end of next week,’ he said.
The FDA is expected to make its final decision on the third round of shots soon. It is not bound by the panel’s recommendation, but it is highly unlikely to break with it.
Finally, at the border in Texas, shocking scenes of human misery unfolded as a surge of 12,000 migrants, mostly from Haiti, gathered in a huge camp seeking asylum in the US.
Migrants are seen by the International Bridge between Mexico and the U.S., in Del Rio, Texas
Haitian migrants use a dam to cross to and from the United States from Mexico on Friday in Del Rio, Texas. Thousands of Haitian migrants have assembled under and around a bridge
Thousands have used the dam presenting the Biden administration with a fresh and immediate challenge as it tries to manage large numbers of asylum-seekers who have been reaching U.S. soil
Many of them did not come directly from Haiti, but had been living in South America for years, reports suggest. The surge came after word got out that the Biden administration would not deport Haitians who enter the country illegally, following an earthquake in that country.
Thousands of Haitians have been wading daily across the Rio Grande at Del Rio, Texas, arriving faster than they can be processed and detained.
In the sweltering heat, they have set up camp under the International Bridge, waiting to be processed by US Customs and Border Patrol. The camp, where food and water are in short supply, now equates to a third of the population of Del Rio.
The city’s Democratic mayor issued a public appeal on Friday, calling the situation a ‘nuclear bomb alarm’ that is ‘no longer sustainable’.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced he was sending National Guard troops and officers with the Texas Department of Public Safety to the state’s ports of entry to ‘deter crossings’ as he compared the migrant crisis to the chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
‘The Biden administration is in complete disarray and is handling the border crisis as badly as the evacuation from Afghanistan,’ he said.
US President Joe Biden arrives in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware on Friday, where he will remain over the weekend with no public events on his schedule
Migrants wait Thursday under and around the international bridge between Del Rio and Ciudad Acuna, Mexico to be processed
Countdown to death: Minute by minute, how the Pentagon meticulously tracked innocent aid worker in Kabul before killing him and seven children with a Hellfire missile in catastrophic intelligence failure
The Pentagon has finally admitted that it killed an innocent aid worker and seven children in a bungled drone strike, marking a disastrous intelligence failure for the Biden administration.
A detailed timeline released by the Pentagon on Friday, when compared against prior reporting on how aid worker Zemari Ahmadi spent his day in Kabul on August 29, reveals the mistaken assumptions and tremendous errors that led up to the disaster.
Ahmadi, 43, worked for US-based aid group Nutrition and Education International, and US officials now admit he appears to have had no connection to ISIS-K terrorists. His fatal mistake, it appears, was driving a white 1996 Toyota Corolla.
In the wake of a suicide attack that killed 13 US troops at the Kabul airport, US officials had intelligence that just such a vehicle was involved in planning another attack, Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said at a briefing on Friday afternoon.
The following account is based on the timeline that McKenzie provided as well as prior reporting on Ahmadi’s movements in the hours leading up to the drone strike, some of which comes from the New York Times.
On the morning of August 29, Ahmadi left the compound near the Kabul airport where he lived with his children, two brothers and nieces and nephews.
On his way to work, Ahmadi picked up a coworker to carpool, before stopping at the home of NEI’s director at 8:52am to pick up a laptop.
The director’s home had been under intense surveillance by MQ-9 Reaper drones, and McKenzie continues to insist that solid intelligence links the home to ISIS-K.
However, a Times reporter visited the NEI director at his home, and met with members of his family, who said they had been living there for 40 years.
‘We have nothing to do with terrorism or ISIS,’ said the director, who also has a U.S. resettlement case. ‘We love America. We want to go there.’
Seeing the white Corolla that matched intelligence reports visiting the supposedly suspicious home, US officials latched on to the vehicle, tracking its every move. Everything they saw seemed to feed into their false theory that they were tracking a terrorist.
At 9.05am, Ahmadi picked up a second co-worker not far from the director’s home, and the three of them rode together to the NEI offices a few miles south.
At 9.35am, Ahmadi and his two co-workers arrived at the offices of NEI, a California-based non-profit that promotes the cultivation of soy crops in Afghanistan. The Pentagon believed the offices to be another ‘suspicious compound’.
PICTURED: The 10 victims mistakenly killed by a US drone strike which was targeting ISIS-K in Afghanistan
Drone surveillance captured Ahmadi and his colleagues unloading ‘bags and jugs’ once they arrived at the office, likely referring to empty water jugs that Ahmadi filled at work to bring home to his family.
A few hours later, at 11.22am, Ahmadi and some co-workers left the offices and drove to the 10th District Police station, which was controlled by the Taliban, to request permission to distribute food to displaced Afghans in a park.
McKenzie says that at around the same time, US forces received a ‘sensitive intelligence collection indicating that an ISIS-K cell leader in Kabul was dropping off supplies,’ and apparently jumped to conclusions connecting the information to Ahmadi.
Ahmadi and his colleagues arrived at the police station at 12.11pm and stayed for about an hour, leaving to return to the NEI office at 1.27pm.
Ahmadi spent the afternoon at the non-profit offices, and as he prepared to go home for the day, filled up several large jugs with water from a hose to take home, as water service in his neighborhood had been cut.
Witnesses helped him load the jugs, and surveillance video shows that they were filled with water. But the Pentagon believed it was witnessing bombs being loaded for an imminent attack.
At 3.47pm, Ahmadi departed the office with three coworkers, giving them a ride home. They later told the Times that it was a normal commute, filled with laughing banter and jokes.
The one difference from normal was that Ahmadi did not turn on his car radio to listen to pop music as he usually did, for fear of running afoul of the Taliban’s harsh restrictions.
At 4.11pm Ahmadi dropped off his first colleague, then made two additional stops to drop off the others. The Pentagon noticed with alarm that the final drop-off, at 4.39pm, was just blocks away from the supposed ‘ISIS-K compound’ where surveillance on the car was first initiated.
At 4.51pm, Ahmadi arrived home and began backing his car into the gated courtyard. A gaggle of children, nieces and nephews, ran outside to greet him.
Drone footage shows the fireball from the courtyard, which the Pentagon believed was proof of explosives in the car. They now say that a nearby propane tank was likely ignited by the missile
A damaged vehicle is at the site of the U.S. airstrike in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan
Relatives and neighbors of the Ahmadi family gathered around the incinerated husk of Ahmadi’s car
Ahmadi’s home is roughly three kilometers from Kabul airport, where US forces were holed up attempting an evacuation, and where a suicide attack had killed hundreds of Afghans and 13 Americans on August 26.
‘We were very concerned that the vehicle could move quickly and be at the airport boundary in a matter of moments,’ McKenzie said.
As the children greeted Ahmadi, his adult cousin Naser walked outside to help him bring the water jugs inside. US forces immediately assessed Naser to be a ‘co-conspirator’ and launched the strike, claiming that they did not see children in the area.
A Hellfire missile detonated inside the Corolla at 4.53pm. Killed were Ahmadi and three of his children, Zamir, 20, Faisal, 16, and Farzad, 10; Ahmadi’s cousin Naser, 30; three of Ahmadi’s nephews, Arwin, seven, Benyamin, six, and Hayat, two; and two three-year-old girls, Malika and Somaya.
The Pentagon initially claimed that a secondary explosion proved that the Corolla was carrying explosive materials. McKenzie admitted on Friday that the missile likely ignited a propane tank near the car, which created a large fireball spotted on drone surveillance.
McKenzie claimed that upon review of the drone footage, ‘a few partially obscured forms were briefly visible moving in the compound’.
‘The strike was a tragic mistake,’ McKenzie said.
Emal Ahmadi shows a photo of his family member who was killed during a U.S. drone strike on their home
Ramal Ahmadi, centre, is supported by family members at the mass funeral of the 10 victims killed in the drone strike
McKenzie apologized for the error and said the United States is considering making reparation payments to the family of the victims.
‘I am now convinced that as many as 10 civilians, including up to seven children, were tragically killed in that strike,’ McKenzie said. ‘Moreover, we now assess that it is unlikely that the vehicle and those who died were associated with ISIS-K or were a direct threat to U.S. forces,’ he added.
McKenzie said that the order to carry out the strike was given by the commander of the over-the-horizon strike team, who has not been named publicly.
For days after the August 29 strike, Pentagon officials asserted that it had been conducted correctly, despite immediate reports from the ground that as many as seven children had been killed.
‘This was a righteous strike,’ said Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark A. Milley days later, claiming that Ahmadi was an ‘ISIS facilitator’
Biden left DC shortly before the Pentagon briefing on Friday, heading to Delaware to spend the weekend in seclusion
‘This was a righteous strike,’ said Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark A. Milley insisted days later, insisting that Ahmadi was an ‘ISIS facilitator’.
Days after the attack, President Joe Biden gave a speech in which he marked the withdrawal of American troops in Afghanistan by the August 31 deadline. He touted America’s ability to strike terrorists and targets without boots on the ground.
But he failed to mention the high civilian casualty rate from the August 29 drone strike, and he failed to mention that children had been killed.
‘We struck ISIS-K remotely, days after they murdered 13 of our service members and dozen of innocent Afghans. And to ISIS-K, we are not done with you yet,’ he said in his speech.
On Friday, Biden left DC before the Pentagon briefing to spend the weekend at his home in Delaware. He has not yet publicly addressed the disastrous intelligence failure.