Afghanistan and Biden: A Reckless and Impetuous Decision That Puts Innocent Lives in Danger

I have always maintained, and still do, that we need the lightest footprint possible in the Middle East, in particular, Afghanistan. That being said, the impetuous manner in which President Biden drew down in Afghanistan is nothing short of an unmitigated disaster. 

And beyond the expected criticism from Republicans, the President has serious detractors in his own party to deal with.

In reference to the swift takeover of the region by Taliban forces, including Kabul Airport, forcing President Biden to send 1,000 extra troops to assist with the departure, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), warned:

 “To say that today is anything short of a disaster would be dishonest. Worse, it was avoidable. The time to debate whether we stay in Afghanistan has passed, but there is still time to debate how we manage our retreat. For months, I have been calling on the Administration to evacuate our allies immediately—not to wait for paperwork, for shaky agreements with third countries, or for time to make it look more ‘orderly.’” 

Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) was even more dramatic in his assessment, tweeting, “The tragedy that’s taking place in Afghanistan—a lot of people are going to be hurt and killed, the progress that we made in regards to women and girls is going to be lost, This is a humanitarian crisis.” If one lacked the appropriate context, Cardin’s description sound hauntingly like the southern border crises. 

Even some in the liberally oriented media voiced their displeasure about how Biden handled the withdrawal. George Packer of the Atlantic, in language eerily similar to FDR’s speech about the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, wrote, “The Biden administration failed to heed the warnings on Afghanistan, failed to act with urgency—and its failure has left tens of thousands of Afghans to a terrible fate. This betrayal will live in infamy. The burden of shame falls on President Joe Biden.”

Many Afghans feel betrayed by our hasty retreat

Of particular concern are the many Afghans that supported the U.S. presence, making them vulnerable targets of the Taliban. Many of these people were left to fend for themselves as the hasty drawdown ensued.

As reported by Business Insider, “The Afghans are seeking refuge in the U.S. through the State Department’s Special Immigrant Visa program, which was established by Congress in 2009 to resettle those interpreters, translators and other Afghan nationals who helped the American war effort. But for years, the program has been plagued by significant delays and currently has roughly 20,000 people at some stage of the application process.”

And although Biden has sought to expedite their relocation, he ultimately has put their lives in jeopardy. Retired Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser cautioned against this hasty retreat, pointing out, “The one other thing that we did is we gave hope to an entire generation of Afghans were born right around 9-11, and after that, for 20 years, they thought that they could have human rights. That young girls could go to school, that they could do all they wanted to be – unfortunately that, too, is in jeopardy at this point.”

But, in a rhetorical masterpiece that took responsibility while simultaneously blaming his predecessor, Biden implored:

 “When I came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor — which he invited the Taliban to discuss at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 of 2019 — that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on U.S. Forces. Shortly before he left office, he also drew U.S. Forces down to a bare minimum of 2,500. Therefore, when I became president, I faced a choice — follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies’ forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict.”

Beyond the false dichotomy Biden proffered (no one in leadership was arguing for a large increase in military presence), the President’s words are riddled with errors. To begin with, Biden is the Commander-in-Chief of our entire military. As such, whatever terms he wishes to put in place, whether or not they honor a previous administration, are his to choose independently, regardless of any deals Trump negotiated.

As Margot Cleveland, a syndicated columnist and senior contributor to The Federalist explains, “As the current commander-in-chief, Biden holds power to decide every aspect of the withdrawal decision. Biden already extended Trump’s May 1, 2021 deadline to September, and if he believed the Taliban too strong, the Afghanistan government too weak, or the withdrawal decision entirely misplaced, the current president could have changed course.”

Need more examples? Here are some headlines from his six months in office: 

I want to be clear that I am not criticizing these reversals; perhaps some had merit. However, these unilateral actions beg the question: “Does that sound like a president who feels obligated to follow a former president’s plans?” Hardly. 

However, to fully comprehend the fatuousness of Biden’s claim, one needs to understand the particulars of the deal executed by the Trump Administration that Biden was referring to. According to the Council of Foreign Relations, there were four specific conditions of the February 20 deal:

  • Cease-fire— Negotiators agreed to a temporary reduction in violence and said that a lasting cease-fire among U.S., Taliban, and Afghan forces will be part of intra-Afghan negotiations.
  • Withdrawal of foreign forces–The United States agreed to reduce its number of troops in the country from roughly 12,000 to 8,600 within 135 days.
  • Intra-Afghan negotiations–The Taliban agreed to start talks with the Afghan government in March 2020. 
  • Counterterrorism assurances–As part of the agreement, the Taliban guaranteed that Afghanistan will not be used by any of its members, other individuals, or terrorist groups to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.

So the logical question is, were these conditions met? All evidence points to the contrary. The Washington Times reports that “. . .the Taliban has failed to follow through on many of its promises. Taliban attacks increased steadily throughout 2020 and early 2021 before culminating in the nationwide offensive seen over the past several weeks. And recent U.S. and United Nations assessments have concluded that the Taliban maintain a close relationship with al Qaeda.” 

A chaotic evacuation in Afghanistan Source:

For his part, Biden seemed to preemptively dismiss conditional concerns, asking, “If we instead pursue the approach where America – U.S. exit is tied to conditions on the ground, we have to have clear answers to the following questions: Just what conditions require to – be required to allow us to depart? By what means and how long would it take to achieve them, if they could be achieved at all?  And at what additional cost in lives and treasure?”

These are intelligent, fair, and reasonable questions to ask. Yet, the conditions were listed, and it doesn’t appear that Biden did his due diligence to seek answers, especially with regard to the plight of the Afghans left behind with large targets on their backs. As Packer asserts: 

“Some of these answers might have been sincere. All of them were irrelevant, self-deceiving, or flat-out false. While some officials in the State Department, the Pentagon, and the White House itself pushed quietly for more urgent measures that might have averted catastrophe, Biden resisted—as if he wouldn’t allow Afghanistan to interfere with his priorities, as if he were done with Afghanistan the minute he announced the withdrawal of all remaining U.S. forces. This hardness is perplexing in a president who spent years in the Senate working on behalf of genocide victims and war refugees; who once promised an Afghan schoolgirl that he would make sure the U.S. didn’t abandon her; who cares intensely about the welfare of American troops.”

To be fair, Trump’s behaviors and pronouncements seemed impetuous, if not rash at times. Moreover, Trump actually praised Biden’s decision to withdraw and bragged about getting out of Afghanistan even earlier than his successor, saying, “Getting out of Afghanistan is a wonderful and positive thing to do. I planned to withdraw on May 1st, and we should keep as close to that schedule as possible.”

Still, to act as though Trump’s words matter, or that his recommendations carry import or currency when Biden called Trump ”an idiot,” in a 60 Minutes interview, strikes me as incredulous at best, and an outright prevarication at worst. 

Either Biden is his own man, or he is not. Either he is in control, or he is not. Either Trump is an irrelevant idiot, or he still matters.  You can’t have it both ways, President Biden. Meanwhile, lives hang in the balance. 


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