The past two months have been painful to watch. To exit Afghanistan and the 20-year war with a self-imposed deadline of 9/11, President Biden chose to withdraw all U.S. troops and American citizens via airlift operation from Kabul. The withdrawal began with his announcement on May 1 that the remaining 2,500 troops would be withdrawn “in a safe, deliberate, and responsible manner.”
On Aug. 31, 2021, President Biden declared the evacuation an “extraordinary success.” In what context could this possibly be seen as an “extraordinary success” when it was one of the greatest unforced foreign policy errors of all time. Maybe the airlift itself was a success if you just count heads. But what about the 10% of Americans that didn’t make it? Returning 90% of Americans who wanted to leave Afghanistan is not a success when he committed to bring home every one of them, “we’re gonna stay and get them all out.” Besides leaving hundreds of Americans, thousands of Afghan allies were also left behind.
It all began with drawing down the troops prior to the actual evacuation that eventually led to the surrender of our embassy, our air bases, the city of Kabul, and our in-country assets including $85 billion of sophisticated military equipment. The U.S. unfortunately also agreed to let the Taliban provide security at and around the airport. Not only was the Taliban allowed to turn people away who were authorized to leave but also allowed the suicide bomber access to the airport. The suicide bombing at an airport gate resulted in 13 American service members being killed, 20 injured, and 167 Afghans killed.
Compounding the questionable decisions, Mr. Biden continued to lie including Americans were having no trouble getting to the airport; our allies were not questioning our reliability; asking the Afghan president to lie about how bad the fight with the Taliban was going; and, most importantly, the only options for America were either leave Afghanistan or escalate the war. Why were there only two options? What about sticking with the existing level of 2,500 troops that proved adequate up until then.
Immediately after the suicide bombing Mr. Biden spoke directly to the ISIS terrorists, “we will not forgive, we will not forget, we will hunt you down and make you pay.” President Biden has so far attempted to “make them pay” twice. First, a drone strike that supposedly killed two “high profile” ISIS-K operatives. After three weeks there is still no official word on who they were or whether they were involved with the suicide bombing. The second was a drone strike that did not kill ISIS-K operatives but rather ten civilians including a U.S. aid worker, two other adults, and seven children. Are these examples of Biden’s “over the horizon” capabilities, bad intel, or just mistakes?
Although he has foreign policy credentials as V.P. and Foreign Policy Advisor to Barack Obama, President Biden is no scholar when it comes to foreign policy. Robert Gates, secretary of defense under Obama, said that Biden, “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”
Leon Panetta, former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense under the Obama/Biden administration, noted, “It just struck me that they were crossing their fingers and hoping chaos would not result. We’re going to have to go back in to get ISIS.”
We have lost too much blood and treasure. The 13 American warriors were willing to give their lives for our country, but they will have died in vain if we don’t learn from this cluster of horrific mistakes. This did not have to happen and we cannot let it happen again. Calling this an “extraordinary success” is an insult and slap in the face to the 13 heartbroken families of those warriors who died when the Taliban let a suicide bomber through their security.
The evacuation is over, but the debacle is not. Afghanistan remains in chaos and Afghan civilians are in mortal danger. Countless others cannot leave and are effectively hostages. Our country is humiliated, our allies are skeptical, and our enemies are emboldened. President Biden could not have botched this any more than if he did so deliberately. Real leaders take responsibility for their decisions, even the bad ones. Will the 78-year-old, cognitively challenged, oldest president in U.S. history make the challenging decisions that await him the next three and a half years?