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'Flat wrong': Fox News' Chris Wallace confronts Blinken on Biden's al-Qaida statement

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WASHINGTON – Fox News host Chris Wallace on Sunday confronted Secretary of State Antony Blinken over President Joe Biden's claims on Afghanistan, including the suggestion that al-Qaida is no longer active in the country.

Biden told reporters Friday that the United States no longer needs troops in Afghanistan to counter al-Qaida, which was behind the 9/11 attacks.

“What interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point with al-Qaida gone?” Biden said. "We went to Afghanistan for the express purpose of getting rid of al-Qaida in Afghanistan, as well as... getting Osama bin Laden. And we did."

Wallace during the interview with Blinken on "Fox News Sunday" said what the president was "flat wrong."

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"What the President said just wasn’t true," Wallace said after playing a short clip of Biden's remarks.

Earlier this summer, the United Nations released a report that al-Qaida is present in "at least 15 Afghan provinces, primarily in the east, southern and south-eastern regions." Wallace cited the report to Blinken.

Blinken tried to reframe Biden's statement, noting al-Qaida is no longer the force it once was.

"Chris, step back for one second," Blinken responded. "As we all know, we went to Afghanistan 20 years ago with one mission and one purpose in mind, and that was to deal with the folks who attacked us on 9/11, to bring bin Laden to justice – which we did a decade ago – and to diminish the capacity of al-Qaida to do the same thing again, to attack us from Afghanistan.

"And that, to the President’s point, has been successful," Blinken said.

Wallace pressed Blinken on Biden's comments: "Simple question: Is al-Qaida gone from Pakistan – from Afghanistan?"

"Al-Qaida’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," Blinken responded.

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But when asked one last time whether al-Qaida was "gone," Blinken conceded that there are still members of al-Qaida in Afghanistan.

"Are there al-Qaida members and remnants in Afghanistan? Yes," he said. "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."

Biden and his administration have faced backlash from Republicans and some members of his own party for his handling of the Afghanistan pullout. The Taliban took control of the country last week.

Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fox News' Chris Wallace confronts Antony Blinken on Biden, al-Qaida

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