The debacle in Afghanistan — the U.S. surrender, the deadly chaos that followed, the withdrawal without any feasible plan to prevent the reemergence of jihadist safe havens and their proliferation —belongs to President Biden.
Once again, Biden lived up to his reputation for being “wrong on nearly every foreign policy and national security issue over the last four decades” as described by former Obama Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Biden’s feckless leadership was displayed July 8 when he wrongly predicted “the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”
By Aug. 16, Biden dishonestly washed his hands of the Afghanistan disaster by blaming others.
He blamed Donald Trump’s peace deal with the Taliban, falsely claiming he was trapped. He blamed his three predecessors. He blamed the Afghans for not fighting and Afghans who fought with us for not leaving sooner. The one group not blamed — the Taliban.
Afghanistan was a North American Treaty Organization operation involving our closest allies. Biden’s botched withdrawal was an insult, with NATO leaders apoplectic.
Biden was dishonest in framing the Afghan mission as fighting in another country’s “civil war.” The U.S. didn’t remain in Afghanistan for 20 years to “nation build.” The core mission was to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming a terrorist safe haven. The Taliban’s victory will attract jihadists from around the world.
Biden capitulated to the Aug. 31 Taliban “red line” demand to an arbitrary deadline to leave Afghanistan. On Aug. 18, Biden promised U.S. troops would stay until all Americans were out of the country, even if past Aug. 31.
His promise was broken. Biden left behind several hundred Americans and as many as 60,000 Afghans who fought or assisted the NATO mission — a moral stain. Also left was an enormous stockpile of expensive military equipment quickly claimed by a triumphant Taliban.
President Donald Trump embraced the “ending endless wars” narrative espoused by many politicians in both parties. As a consequence, the Trump administration signed a four-page peace deal with the Taliban on Feb. 29, 2020.
This Doha agreement gave enormous legitimacy to the Taliban, whose leaders met with Secretary of State Pompeo. Trump outrageously tried to invite them to Camp David.
It was an unfair negotiation because no one represented the Afghan government or their interests—they were completely excluded.
The Doha agreement was weak and one-sided. It was heavily weighted toward the Taliban and undermined Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. It provided for the unconscionable release of 5,000 militant Taliban prisoners on March 10, 2020.
This disgraceful agreement called for the U.S. to bring down its forces to 8,600 from 13,000 over the following three to four months, with all remaining U.S. forces to be withdrawn in 14 months, by May 1, 2021.
Nowhere did the Taliban have to — or did it — denounce al-Qaida.
H.R. McMaster, Trump’s second national security adviser, called Doha “a surrender agreement with the Taliban.” John Bolton, Trump’s third national security adviser, said there was no difference between Trump and Biden on Afghanistan.
Mark Esper, Trump’s former defense secretary, said Trump mishandled Afghanistan by continuing to withdraw troops even though the Taliban didn’t uphold its end of the deal.
President George W. Bush wrote in “Decision Points” his 2010 memoir:
“Ultimately, the only way the Taliban and al-Qaeda can retake Afghanistan is if America abandons the country. Allowing the extremists to reclaim power would force Afghan women back into subservience, remove girls from school, and betray the gains of the last nine years. It would also endanger our security. After the Cold War, the United States gave up on Afghanistan. The result was chaos, civil war, the Taliban takeover, sanctuary for al-Qaida, and the nightmare of 9/11. To forget that lesson would be a dreadful mistake.”
Biden betrayed the ultimate sacrifice made in Afghanistan by 2,461 American military families. This shameful calamity requires an accounting — starting at the highest level.
Jim Hartman is an attorney in Genoa. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.