A year after America’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, no one in the Biden administration has been held accountable, including the person who bears the most responsibility for it: President Joe Biden.
Monday marked the one-year anniversary of the fall of Kabul to the Taliban and the beginning of what was arguably the worst U.S. foreign policy disaster since the fall of Saigon in 1975. In Kabul, the Taliban celebrated by marching in a “Victory Day” parade, holding weapons aloft, waving flags, and shouting “God is great.”
And no wonder — the Taliban won, America lost. If Americans had been in denial about our defeat in Afghanistan, the calamitous U.S. withdrawal last August left no doubt. Images of the chaos that ensued as the Taliban closed in on Kabul shocked the world, perhaps none more so than the throngs of Afghans at the airport, running alongside and clinging to U.S. military aircraft as they took off. Some desperate Afghans held on too long, plunging to their deaths as the Americans flew away.
The falling men of Kabul would come to symbolize America’s abject failure in Afghanistan. Two decades after 9/11, we departed in chaos and confusion, abandoned at least 800 American citizens and tens of thousands of Afghan allies, and left hundreds of billions of dollars worth of military hardware in the hands of the Taliban, our erstwhile enemies who now rule Afghanistan with an iron fist.
When Kabul fell, Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken were on vacation, just as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ross Wilson had been earlier that summer, when the country was falling apart.
According to a new report on the Afghanistan withdrawal by Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Wilson’s two-week absence that July made it impossible for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to make critical decisions and prepare for a Sept. 11 deadline Biden had arbitrarily imposed for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces and personnel.
The congressional report, according to a recent article by Susan Crabtree of RealClearPolitics, claims Biden and top administration officials lied when they claimed the fall of Kabul came as a surprise, and that they had no choice but to rely on the Taliban for security in the Afghan capital during the U.S. evacuation.
Relying on the Taliban, it turns out, would prove disastrous when a suicide bomber managed to slip past Taliban security checkpoints and kill 13 U.S. soldiers and some 170 Afghans at a Kabul airport gate. The report reveals that those senseless deaths might have been avoided if the Biden administration had accepted an Aug. 15 offer from the Taliban to allow the U.S. military to control security in the capital during the evacuation.
As for the fall of Kabul coming as a surprise to Biden’s White House, the report says Biden and his advisers were warned more than a month in advance that the Afghan government was on the brink of collapse. A mid-July cable from nearly two dozen U.S. personnel stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said the Afghan government and military might quickly collapse amid a U.S. withdrawal, as did a CIA intelligence assessment that summer.
Biden and Blinken ignored it, just as they ignored offers from Guam and Pakistan to provide interim transit centers to help process Afghan interpreters and other evacuees after U.S. air bases in Qatar and Germany had been overwhelmed, according to the report.
Perhaps most notoriously, Biden lied about al-Qaeda being “gone” from Afghanistan (or, as Blinken put it, being reduced to “remnants”). How do we know? Because when U.S. forces recently took out al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, he was living in downtown Kabul. He wasn’t hiding in a cave in the mountains, he was living and working in the heart of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan’s capital city, where he had reportedly relocated with his family only months after the U.S. withdrawal.
This week we’ll hear arguments, pegged to the anniversary of the withdrawal, that it wasn’t really Biden’s fault, that he inherited a war none of his predecessors had the guts to end, that former President Donald Trump left him with an unworkable agreement for withdrawal, that really it was all the fault of the corrupt Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, and the feckless Afghan military.
Certainly, there is blame to go around in America’s decades-long misadventure in Afghanistan. But in the months and even years leading up to last year’s withdrawal, almost no one (except top U.S. generals like Mark Milley) argued we should stay in Afghanistan indefinitely. The question was not, do we get out? But, how do we get out in an orderly way?
By ignoring intelligence on the ground in Afghanistan, failing to make careful preparations months in advance, and ceding control of security in Kabul to the Taliban, among other blunders, Biden turned a challenge into a crisis and a crisis into a catastrophe. And then he lied about it. He is still lying about it. And no one has been held accountable.
And by the way, that doesn’t just describe the Afghanistan withdrawal, it describes almost every major event of the Biden presidency.