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Disaster in Afghanistan

August 23, 2021
Weekly Columns

For two decades, our brave men and women in the U.S. military have fought the Taliban and other elements of terror in Afghanistan to not only promote democracy but help stabilize the region and foster peace in this struggling nation. Incredibly, last week, President Joe Biden completely botched the withdrawal of remaining troops from Afghanistan, leaving only fear, desperation and a resurgent Taliban.

The hasty and disorganized attempt to flee erased any sense of American resolve and principle and left behind thousands of dedicated people who have put themselves and their families in danger to help the United States for more than 20 years. It also abandoned huge investments in sensitive military equipment, weapons and vehicles to the Taliban. Images across news and social media document yet more wreckage as we approach the twentieth anniversary of the devastating terrorist attack on our country on September 11, 2001.

Since this May, the Taliban rapidly began gaining territory in the north of Afghanistan. By July, United States troops were ordered to leave Bagram Air Base, our most significant base in providing a presence to deter Taliban incursions, a forward position for staging key assets and providing training to Afghans. President Biden’s failure to understand the military realities on the ground, the strength and prowess of the Taliban forces and the contrasting weakness of the Afghan military was key to the quick collapse of stability and our sudden evacuation.

While addressing the nation last week, President Biden blamed his poorly planned retreat on the previous administration. To be clear, while President Trump did plan to remove troops by May of this year, his plan was contingent on circumstance – meaning specific criteria must be met before moving on. These conditions were not met, yet President Biden continued recklessly down this path. The fact that even our own safe evacuation of the embassy required thousands of U.S. troops be sent right back to Kabul underscores the Biden Administration’s lack of understanding of the situation on the ground. They were, unfortunately, taken completely by surprise at the Taliban’s utter and almost instantaneous reconquering of the nation.

Twenty years of policy and effort obviously bear the mark of multiple administrations and Congresses. However, as Commander in Chief, President Biden cannot point fingers and blame anyone else for this national embarrassment of this ending but himself. The Biden Administration ignored the clear advice of his most senior military experts – that the modest American force left in Afghanistan that he chose to withdraw was critical to maintaining stability and holding the Taliban at bay.

Americans should have no illusions about the nature of the evil regime reconsolidating power in Afghanistan. The Taliban are enemies of America. They hosted and sheltered Osama bin Laden, and they maintain robust relations with the likes of ISIS and Al-Qaeda. They can be expected to impose a brutal, medieval fundamentalist Islamic regime that will oppress, abuse and kill innocent women, men and children. It will be the antithesis of the democratic and egalitarian values championed by the United States.

Most acutely though, are the estimated ten thousand United States citizens still trapped in Afghanistan with no ability to get to the Kabul airport, which is their only way out of the country. As the Taliban is already searching door to door for those unsympathetic to their regime, we must put every effort into rescuing those stranded. President Biden must provide clear guidance to the U.S. Department of Defense to negotiate safe passage for American citizens and our many dedicated partners.

Unfortunately, the president ignored the advice of his national security team in the interest of making a desired political point, and now he must accept responsibility for this humiliating national defeat and for the human tragedy that is already unfolding on the ground and being felt around the world. While no plan to leave a country, especially one riddled with the issues Afghanistan faces, is perfect, we can expect the Taliban and other terrorists and extremists to exploit this reckless abandonment of the people and principles we spent decades of blood and treasure to protect.