By Derek Hubbard
In his first public remark since the fall of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, President Joe Biden largely ignored his administration’s grave miscalculations of the Taliban’s ability to rapidly overthrow the Afghan government. Instead, the president focused on the obvious — he inherited a difficult situation and had to make a decision in the best interest of the American people. Biden said he had two options: withdraw from the nearly two-decade-long war or continue to fight an unwinnable conflict.
However, 19 years of military and political blunders by his predecessors do not absolve the president of his responsibility to ensure the safety of American citizens and the Afghan civilians who assisted American forces. After serving as the vice president for eight years alongside former President Obama, and 12 years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden hardly lacks foreign policy experience. Yet thousands of Americans are now stranded and Afghan civilians would rather cling on to American military planes than face retribution from the Taliban. Clearly something has gone amiss, and Biden, a tactful politician, prefers to convolute the issue rather than take responsibility for the chaotic evacuation.
We need to understand the distinct issues that the Biden Administration conveniently combines: the withdrawal and the evacuation. If nearly twenty years of fighting has taught Americans anything, it is that sheer military power combined with the goodwill of taxpayers cannot rebuild a perpetually war-torn country. Voters are fed up with fighting a seemingly never-ending war. Biden, an apt politician, acknowledges this reality. As such, administration officials often quip that he stands by his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. It is a good sound byte: the soldiers are coming home.
An evacuation comes with a particular difficulty not seen in a military withdrawal. American forces have the proper equipment to defend themselves and comparatively easy access to transportation out of the country. The same cannot be said for the countless civilian Americans and Afghans who urgently need to leave the terrorist-controlled country. Civilians require protection to reach airports and an adequate number of planes to swiftly evacuate. It is a difficult endeavor.
A troop withdrawal requires an orderly evacuation to save Americans and thousands of Afghans who are likely to become Taliban targets. With The Taliban in control of the country, allegedly looking for Afghans who helped U.S. forces and beating up civilians trying to reach American planes, the Biden Administration has failed to protect those most in need of protection.
Surely, the administration anticipated the security situation to deteriorate with the end of U.S. military assistance, albeit not at the rapid pace seen within the last few weeks. So why not conduct a full evacuation while there is still a significant American presence in the country? This is a question that the administration should answer as 6,000 soldiers frantically head to Taliban-controlled Kabul to assist in evacuation efforts.
Mistakes, even grave ones, do happen. Biden may have favored his own foreign policy expertise over the reports of his intelligence officials. The reports themselves may have been inaccurate. Either way, Biden and his team have failed to adequately take responsibility for the recent failures in Afghanistan. Instead, he spent the vast majority of his Aug. 16 speech defending his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, distracting from his administration’s own failures.
Administration briefings often focus on largely indisputable assertions: Afghanistan is a mess, the American people want to leave, the president wanted to leave, and the president still wants to leave. Biden officials continue with this charade until they are pressed to take at least partial responsibility. Why not do so from the start? A sign on former President Harry S. Truman’s desk read “The Buck Stops Here.” What does the sign on President Biden’s desk say?