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Biden arrives in NYC for UNGA amid France rift, Afghan drone tragedy


President Biden arrived in New York City Monday for his first address to the United Nations General Assembly following a series of foreign policy crises — including a rift with France that caused America’s oldest ally to pull its ambassador over a new strategic alliance with Australia and the UK and the fallout from the disastrous withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.

Biden traveled to New York after briefly returning to the White House from a weekend trip to his Delaware beach house without taking any questions from reporters.

The president was greeted at the airport by Gov. Kathy Hochul, Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife Chirlane McCray. He was scheduled to hold a one-on-one meeting with UN Secretary General António Guterres later Monday evening.

The president has not spoken to the press since what some critics dubbed the administration’s “Friday from hell” when over the span of a few hours last week, France recalled its envoy to Washington and the US military admitted it had killed 10 civilians — including seven children and an aid worker — in a drone strike the administration initially spun as a triumph of its post-Afghan war “over the horizon” anti-terror capabilities.


The spat with the Paris government began Wednesday of last week, when Biden, along with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, announced plans to equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.

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The initiative, meant to send a warning signal to China and repair a slight to Australia over the Afghanistan withdrawal, upended a French defense contract worth at least $66 billion to sell diesel-powered submarines to Australia and caused outrage in the European power’s government.

President Joe Biden traveled to New York from the White House without taking any questions from reporters.
AP/Evan Vucci

French Minister for European and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian announced Friday that he had called back the ambassadors to the US and Australia and slammed both countries for what he called “unacceptable behavior between allies and partners, whose consequences directly affect the vision we have of our alliances, of our partnerships and of the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe.”

A day earlier, Le Drian had told radio network France Info that the announcement represented a “stab in the back” and added it “reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do.”

“I am angry and bitter,” the minister added. “This isn’t done between allies.”

Biden is expected to speak with French President Emmanuel Macron in the coming days to attempt to smooth over the matter.

The fiasco marked a new setback for international relations under the Biden administration following the chaos and confusion of the Afghan withdrawal, which was marked by disagreements between allied forces over rescue operations in Kabul and the refusal by the president to reach out to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison during the weeks-long disaster.

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That disaster was punctuated by the Pentagon’s admission Friday afternoon that the Aug. 29 drone strike, which targeted a car in Kabul believed to be carrying ISIS-K suicide bombers, had in fact killed innocent civilians who represented no threat to US forces.

The Pentagon initially said the strike was a successful mission to prevent another attack on Kabul’s international airport after 13 US service members and at least 169 Afghans were killed by an ISIS suicide bomber on Aug. 26. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, went so far as to proclaim to reporters Sept. 1 that “the procedures were correctly followed and it was a righteous strike.”

On Friday, Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., the head of US Central Command, gave a very different assessment when he called the strike “a mistake” and offered “my sincere apology” — but did not say whether anyone would be held responsible for the catastrophe.

By the time McKenzie was fessing up to the world’s media, Biden had left Washington for Delaware and a weekend of few public appearances and no public events.

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