The troops are gone from Afghanistan and the evacuation operation is officially over. The Biden Administration is seeking credit for finally ending the longest war in our history and trying to shift public attention to fighting the Covid pandemic and to his domestic agenda including winning support for a $3.5 trillion spending blowout containing more free stuff for everyone. Our troops may be gone but the war on terrorism is by no means over and, with the Taliban in charge, Afghanistan will likely return to its practice of hosting terrorists who hate us and mean to do us harm.
The problems, all foreseeable, arising from a poorly-planned and hastily-executed withdrawal continue. When the last U.S. aircraft left Kabul with the last American soldier in Afghanistan on board, we left behind some Americans, something we had promised not to do, and most Afghans who had aided us in the 20-year conflict and feared reprisals against them and their families at the hands of the Taliban. Not to worry, though. The efforts to evacuate them safely would continue with the cooperation of the ruling Taliban, said President Joe Biden and his top handlers. So how is that working out, thus far?
During Labor Day weekend, at least six commercial aircraft chartered to evacuate several hundred people seeking to leave Afghanistan were kept from departing by Taliban officials. Included among the passengers were some Americans. A Taliban official said that some of the passengers lacked passports, visas or other required documentation. Later, Taliban officials said that aircraft containing both Americans and Afghans would not be permitted to depart. Later still, Taliban officials denied that it was preventing Americans from leaving. Finally, a Qatari aircraft with Americans and others onboard was permitted to depart Kabul’s airport and another was scheduled to follow as of this writing. One of the reasons for the delays appears to be the fact that U.S. troops had disabled and destroyed some of the airport’s flight control equipment as they departed. Qatari technicians reportedly spent several days restoring the airport’s equipment in order to permit even restricted operations.
Taliban officials then said that they would permit U.S. citizens and others with valid passports and visas to fly out of Kabul but not from Mazar-e-Sharif to the north where other Americans were waiting. Their challenge then was to try to make it to Kabul safely along with as many Afghans who aided us as possible. Many of the Americans remaining are reported to be of Afghan descent and have family members remaining in Afghanistan who are at risk. They need more time to try to make arrangements for them.
Refusing to permit any Americans to leave or to travel safely to designated departure locations would amount to holding them hostage, a situation that many predicted would happen with the ruling Taliban then demanding diplomatic recognition, economic aid and access to frozen financial assets as conditions of their release. The frantic scramble to get all Americans out along with as many of the Afghans at risk as possible, the loss of valuable equipment now in the hands of the Taliban and the humiliating end of our efforts in Afghanistan are but some of the continuing consequences of a series of bad decisions and poor planning but by no means the only ones that will continue to plague the Biden Administration.
Screening those Afghans who did and will continue to make it out of the country in the future will present a serious challenge. The plan, apparently, is to have them screened at U.S. bases on foreign soil, primarily in Qatar, Germany and Italy, before being resettled in the U.S. or other allied countries. Included among them will be some who don’t pass screening and may represent a security threat. Some who managed to board early flights during the chaotic evacuation operation in Kabul weren’t processed at all. What will be done with those who fail screening and are deemed risks?
Kosovo, a predominantly Muslim nation friendly to the United States, has agreed to take in some Afghans who don’t pass screening and host them for up to a year. But then what? This is at best a temporary fix. Other countries have balked at hosting Afghan evacuees even temporarily, expressing reluctance to take on what they consider to be America’s security problems.
Immigration advocacy and religious groups and other private individuals including some members of Congress are demanding speedier actions to evacuate Afghans at risk and grant asylum but the vetting process must be thorough. Unnecessary haste, and a desire to score political points by ending America’s longest war by the 20th anniversary of 9/11 apparently prevented thorough planning for contingencies and contributed to this fiasco in the first place. All of these problems and those that will follow might have been avoided or at least ameliorated had enough time been taken to carefully plan for the worst-case scenario with a realistic timetable and sufficient security in place to ensure safe evacuation of all Americans and those Afghans at risk who posed no risk to us.
The new Taliban government is a hardline, all-male group including Sirajuddin Haqqanias as Minister of Interior in charge of security who is an internationally recognized terrorist. There is a multi-million-dollar reward for information leading to his arrest. The new Prime Minister, Mullah Hassan Akhun, served as Foreign Minister of the previous Islamic Emirate which hosted Osama bin Laden. Four of the five Taliban detainees released from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for captured U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl were named to the new government. They are intent on re-imposing Sharia law, probably eliminating some or all of the reforms and women’s rights established in the past 20 years. Two-thirds of Afghans are under 25 and have grown up with these western values. Shall we now abandon them to the tender mercies of the Taliban?
Relying on the Taliban to cooperate with us in assuring that all Americans and those Afghans who assisted us and wanted to leave could do so was another mistake in judgment on the parts of President Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and those that advised them. Mr. Biden’s qualifications for office were supposed to have included extensive experience in foreign affairs. You could have fooled me. In just six months, Mr. Biden has created chaos on our southern border and in Afghanistan, damaged our international reputation and increased our security risks because of poor decision-making, judgment and planning.