President Joe Biden was set to make a statement on Afghanistan on Monday, right after this issue went to press. The statement was moved up, and on Sunday, it was announced that Biden would speak within a few days.
Will he go down in history as the president who was in charge of the humiliating end of the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan?
Even the liberal New York Times seems to think so. As recently as five weeks ago, President Joe Biden stated with confidence, “There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy in the – of the United States from Afghanistan,” an evacuation that took place in 1975 in Vietnam when the Viet Cong took over Saigon. At the time, Joe Biden was a freshman senator and supported American withdrawal from Vietnam.
“The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely,” he added.
On Sunday and Monday, the world watched the chaotic evacuation of American embassy staff in Kabul, thousands of people rushing to the airport with the hope of leaving, in fear of the Taliban taking control and amid reports that al-Qaida and other extremist group members were breaking out of government prisons. At the last moment, America sent 6,000 troops to help with the evacuation.
Seven months of Joe Biden’s presidency devoted to intensive struggles in the fight against COVID-19 and pulling the country out of the pandemic crisis, were eclipsed over several days by the shocking scenes from Afghanistan, as the Taliban took over nearly a month before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, following 20 years of trying to bring order there.
Without a Plan, with Misleading Reports
Even Biden’s allies, who believed that he took the right decision regarding the withdrawal of military forces from Afghanistan engulfed by a war the U.S. could not win and had no interest in, now admit that he overcalculated and made mistakes in the withdrawal operation.
Biden was proud of the fact that he was taking office with more extensive experience in foreign policy than any other president since Dwight D. Eisenhower. He’s been consistent in his position on withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan since the beginning. As vice president, he did not support Barack Obama’s decision to send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. At meetings on military withdrawal, he reiterated that he did not want to hand Afghanistan to a fifth president.
With conviction, he carried out the withdrawal plan initiated by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump. According to critics, he and his advisers downplayed the political impact of this decision, citing opinion polls that said that more than half of the voters wanted an end to the costly war and that the troops be brought home.
As a result, “chaos and confusion dominated his first major foreign policy decision — the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan,” wrote Politico. It turned out that the Biden administration had no solid plan for leaving the country. U.S. intelligence failed, as it didn’t predict such quick action on the part of the Taliban, and it overestimated the capabilities of the Afghan army. It “happened more quickly than we anticipated,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
Trump on Resignation
Republicans, oblivious of how 20 years earlier they applauded President George W. Bush when he launched the invasion of Afghanistan, and later Donald Trump, when he promised to withdraw U.S. troops, have now started lambasting Biden. “It’s an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions,” they’ve said. “[Biden] could have planned for it. He could have had a strategy for this,” Texas Rep. Michael McCaul told CNN, speculating that Afghanistan will now return to the state it was in before 9/11 in 2001, that is, it will become terrorist territory.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the withdrawal of Americans from Afghanistan “the embarrassment of a superpower laid low,” and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told conservative journalist Sean Hannity’s Fox News that this catastrophe would not have happened if Trump were still in office.
Meanwhile, former President Trump has called on Biden to resign. “It is time for Joe Biden to resign in disgrace for what he has allowed to happen to Afghanistan, along with the tremendous surge in Covid, the border catastrophe, the destruction of energy independence, and our crippled economy,” said the former president who himself wanted to withdraw American troops before May 1 and criticized Biden for extending this term until the end of August.
A considerable number of Democrats joined Republican voices. Ryan Crocker, former ambassador in Kabul during the Obama administration, criticized Biden, and said there was “a total lack of coordinated, post-withdrawal planning on our part.”