Destabilizing speculation

Joe Biden’s botched exit from Afghanistan has long been a disaster at home and abroad

But a mind-boggling Taliban blitzkrieg followed more than 20 years of political failures by the United States and its allies, misunderstandings about Afghan politics and culture, public war fatigue, and the guilt and corruption of the leaders of the United States. the failed state.

“It is a stain on the integrity and honor of our nation that a few months ago, we did not respect our obligations towards the men and women, our Afghan allies who served alongside us,” said Jake Wood, a former US navy and Afghan war navy. veteran, CNN’s Pamela Brown told CNN on Sunday. “We owe them special immigrant visas. We owe them security, just as much as we owe our embassy workers in Kabul security.

Biden remained in the presidential retreat from Camp David in Maryland on Monday morning, but was due to return to the White House to address the nation in the afternoon. Senior national security officials appeared on television in an apparent effort to counter the impression that the administration had been severely overwhelmed by events.

After a video showed showing Afghans flooding the tarmac at Kabul airport, Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer admitted the airport was crowded with “desperate” Afghans wanting to leave, but insisted on CNN’s “New Day” that the United States had the forces in place “that are necessary to bring stability and security to this airport.”

Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan deflected responsibility for the chaos scenes in Kabul, telling ABC News that the president would speak “soon” to the Americans. And he criticized the Afghan armed forces for withdrawing in the face of the lightning advance of the Taliban.

“(Biden) thought the Afghan national security forces could step up and fight because we spent 20 years, tens of billions of dollars training them, giving them the best equipment, supporting them with American forces for 20 years. years and when things went wrong, they decided not to fight for their country, ”Sullivan said.

The United States launched the war in Afghanistan 20 years ago in a spirit of revenge, determination and unity, after al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington shattered the myth of hyperpower American post-Cold War era. He ends it in a rushed race to get out, humiliated by a primitive militia, yet ready to die for jihad on his native soil, and reimposes his feudal mandate on a war-torn nation that is bleeding foreign invaders dry.

It was shocking that a war that killed or maimed thousands of Americans, many more Afghan civilians and cost a trillion dollars, ended so abruptly in such an ignominious eclipse. But maybe it shouldn’t have been.

Ironically, Biden’s mismanagement of withdrawal from Afghanistan underscored his central point – that America’s visions of forging a functioning nation were illusory, and that many more years of American involvement would make no difference. The evaporation of Afghan forces and police that the United States has spent billions to fight the Taliban has mystified many Washington officials. It summed up how senior military officers and diplomats were misled by their own preconceptions and the investment of years of American blood and treasures, troop increases, withdrawals, diplomatic offensives, and arbitrary deadlines for go.

The sudden Afghan crisis, which developed with astonishing speed – at least for most people in Washington who had long looked away from the country’s longest war – is the most serious political reversal to date for Biden. And it came just days after he celebrated his biggest victories so far – the passage of more than $ 4.5 trillion in combined infrastructure and budgetary spending by the Senate. The victory challenged skeptics who had long scoffed at his vow to bring Republicans and Democrats together, followed his earlier signing of a massive Covid-19 relief bill, and bolstered his reputation as an effective national leader. Much of that momentum – at least for now – risks being drowned out by imagery of US defeat abroad.

Biden carries the can

Biden now finds himself carrying the political box for two decades of other people’s missteps – after adding his own mistakes. He will be accused of rushing the exit of the United States to create a favorable political narrative as the president who brought American troops home ahead of the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks – plotted by al-Qaeda from Afghanistan – and ahead of next year’s congressional midterm elections. .
At the same time, Biden was doing exactly what most Americans, exhausted by long years of foreign quagmires and confused as to why American troops were still in Afghanistan 20 years after 9/11, wanted. There was no national support for the escalation of the war. To stop the advance of the Taliban, the president would have had to deploy thousands of additional American troops and carry out new fighting without public support. That and his own long-term skepticism about the war made his own decision to pull out almost inevitable. But the force of the Taliban’s advance caught the White House off guard.
Try, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken did on Sunday talk shows, there is no way to turn the events of the past few days into anything but a national political and geopolitical wreck.

After telling the troops to leave, Biden has now had to detain 6,000 of their comrades in Afghanistan to secure the retreat of US personnel at the embassy as Kabul airport is besieged by crowds wanting to leave.

Failure to get all Americans out to safety, or any ensuing loss of American troops, would threaten catastrophic political damage for the president amid new comparisons to the haunting American legacy of Vietnam.

Biden’s judgment as commander-in-chief is called into question as it is recorded, in damning video footage, claiming that the Taliban victory was “not inevitable.” He said there would be no Saigon-style photos of helicopters taking off from the roof of the US Embassy in Kabul. This exact scenario unfolded this weekend after the United States rushed to bring out its people, and the Stars and Stripes were shot down by the flagpole as the fundamentalist militia routed by the United States in 2001, returned to the Afghan capital.

Biden was at Camp David all weekend and did not speak to the American people on camera. He issued a paper statement justifying his decision to leave Afghanistan, in which he deceptively referred to an “orderly” evacuation. And photos of Biden in a secure conference room during the presidential retreat, in a polo shirt, speaking with on-screen officials, did little to promote the intended image of an engaged commander-in-chief.

Republicans attack

On CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday show, Blinken argued that the United States had completed its mission – to crush al-Qaeda – and that Biden had found himself in an impossible position by the deal’s deal. ex-President Donald Trump with the Taliban for the United States to leave. for good in May, a deadline slightly postponed by his successor.

If Biden had violated this agreement, Blinken said, “We would have been at war with the Taliban again. And we would have been at war again, with tens of thousands of troops expected to come in, because the 2,500 troops we had there and air power would not have been enough to cope with the situation. Despite his defense of the administration’s preparations, Blinken expressed surprise at the “vacuum” of Afghan forces and their collapse and the rapid withdrawal of the Afghan forces. democratic government supported by the United States in Kabul.

The Secretary of State made a few strong points. America’s first victory in Afghanistan over al-Qaeda and the Taliban for harboring the terrorist group Osama bin Laden prevented any repeat of September 11. And Trump intended an even faster withdrawal than Biden. It is not clear whether Trump implemented plans to ensure the evacuation of US personnel, embassy staff or Afghan translators who supported two decades of US military effort when he signed an agreement with the Taliban to withdraw US troops by May of this year.

The Trump administration’s decision to conduct negotiations with the Taliban – which Trump had hoped to invite to Camp David – without the presence of the Afghan government – has made Afghan government officials and security forces question the support of the United States, according to some analysts.

Scenes in the Afghan capital have left the president open to easy Republican attacks.

“I call on President Biden to stop making excuses for his own mistakes and address the country in person,” Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy of California said in a statement. Leader of the minority Republican Senator Mitch McConnell complained about the “sloppy” exit from Afghanistan, adding in a statement: “Everyone saw this coming except the president, who publicly and confidently rejected the threats. just a few weeks ago ”. On “The State of the Union,” the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, lambasted Biden for presiding over “an absolute disaster of epic proportions.”

Many who target Biden’s sharpest critics are unlikely to have advocated the kind of hawkish policies and a long engagement in Afghanistan that have failed year after year and that have helped this weekend quell the political storm. raging around the president.

Another blow to the image of the United States abroad

Biden’s challenge must now prevent a narrative of failure from developing around his administration. The president was already facing a resurgence of the pandemic – thanks to the refusal of many conservatives to get free and life-saving vaccinations. And despite skyrocketing job creation and Biden’s victory in infrastructure, Republicans cite rising inflation and record numbers of undocumented migrants turned away at the U.S. border as saying his presidency is in crisis. .

Nonetheless, given the deep skepticism of the American public about the cost and outcome of the post-9/11 wars, snap judgments that the current crisis will permanently hurt Biden are premature.

Internationally, however, the disorderly exit of the United States from Afghanistan will raise doubts about Washington’s firmness as an ally.

After declaring that “America is back” after the alienating and destabilizing Trump era on his first overseas trip to Europe earlier this summer, Biden’s first real foreign policy crisis is a botched retirement of the United States. And the president’s bugle calls for democracy protection abroad will be undermined by his decision to abandon a fragile democratic government in Afghanistan.

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