While the Taliban laid siege to Afghanistan, the commander in chief was hiding from the American people.
Instead of President Joe Biden behind the Resolute Desk addressing the crisis, Americans watched the news replaying weeks-old videos of Biden defiantly stating what would prove to be inversely prophetic: “The Taliban is not the North Vietnamese army. They’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability…There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people lifted off the roof of an Embassy of the United States from Afghanistan.”
Thirty-eight days later, images of U.S. forces airlifting personnel from the roof of the American embassy splashed across TVs in American living rooms.
Other images, too. After Biden had to surge more forces back into Afghanistan, scenes of U.S. military forces evacuating frantic hordes of U.S. and allied civilian personnel from the mayhem on the tarmac in Kabul unfolded in real-time. Americans watched in horror as desperate Afghans clung to the outside of American transport planes, then plunged thousands of feet to their deaths, preferring that fate to the mercy of the Taliban.
The events are hard to fathom. Is it possible an American president, with decades of foreign policy experience, failed to consider second and third-order effects? That he failed to consider the seasonal warfighting patterns unique to Afghanistan? Failed to make realistic and necessary operational preparations, or accurately assess what would happen to Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) once they didn’t have U.S. aerial support and the direction from U.S. special forces? Is it possible our president failed to have a plan to evacuate U.S. civilians and our most at-risk partners and then failed to develop a clear message to the American people?
It is not only possible, it is our very real, national nightmare.
On Monday afternoon Biden finally addressed the nation. He was defensive of his decision to completely withdraw, did not own up to the disastrous way his decision was planned and carried out, and blamed Trump for his bad deal with the Taliban (though the deal was based on conditions that the Taliban did not meet) and on the ANSF saying, “Americans cannot and should not be fighting in a war that Afghans [in the] military aren’t willing to fight themselves…This is not in the American national security interest.”
Don’t be fooled.
It is true that Trump wanted out. But he left a residual force in place. It is also untrue that the ANSF’s did not fight the Taliban. Since roughly 2014, and then especially since Trump’s dramatic drawdown to a mere few thousand forces, the ANSF were conducting dangerous ground operations and more than 50,000 lost their lives in that time. Many more were injured. The U.S. forces were providing support and guidance, and confidence– something the ANSF simply could not do without.
As for whether it is in our national security interest to maintain a small presence there and keep control of the invaluable Bagram Air Force Base, the president is wrong. What was not in our national security interest was the nation-building, counterinsurgency project that required a large and endangered troop presence. The American people were behind the war in response to 9-11—to kill Al Qaeda and those who harbored them. Support for the effort dwindled as the scope of mission grew, cost more American lives for an unachievable project.
It didn’t have to be this way. The U.S. government could have decided to do only what was militarily achievable—destroy the enemy wherever he hid—including in Pakistan– and we could have de-escalated our involvement years ago. After thousands of precious warriors’ lives were lost, we should have at least maintained a very small presence there, like the U.S. military presence at the end of Trump’s term, to keep order, conduct airstrikes, and to back the ANSF.
If only we had a competent, honest, able, governing class to recognize this and carry this through.
Read in Inside Sources