The War on Terror is over, and the United States did not win. Instead, President Joe Biden’s ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan will go down as the most stunning U.S. foreign policy blunder since its pullout from Vietnam in the 1970s. While three successive administrations have bungled the War in Afghanistan, Joe Biden did so most tragically and most decisively.
The debacle began in February 2020, when the Trump administration signed a deal with the Taliban promising U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan by May 2021. The agreement, a farce from the start, was predicated on the fictional notion that the Taliban would cut its ties with al-Qaeda, fight them alongside the U.S. and then proceed to participate in negotiations to share power with the U.S.-backed Afghan government. It was never going to happen. In December 2020, The Washington Post reported that “As the Taliban and the United States were finalizing their February deal, Taliban leaders were in frequent communication with al-Qaeda, consulting with their counterparts on the terms of the agreement and assuring them that they would not be betrayed.” It is no surprise that despite the ‘peace’ agreement, NBC reported that Taliban attacks throughout Afghanistan ramped up throughout 2020 and 2021.
The Biden administration had the opportunity to change course and maintain a small U.S. presence in Afghanistan. They chose to continue the withdrawal, arguing that the Trump administration had left them no choice but to leave. It was an odd argument, given that the Biden administration has not been shy about reversing other Trump-era foreign policy decisions, such as the Paris Climate Accord and the Iran Nuclear Deal. And if keeping the Trump administration’s word was so imperative, why violate the original agreement and extend the withdrawal deadline to September? Despite the administration’s post-hoc rationalizations, the decision to withdraw was President Biden’s own.
So President Biden must own the results. The withdrawal could cripple U.S. counterterrorism operations: According to Breaking Defense, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the top military official in Afghanistan, told the House Armed Services Committee in April that preventing al-Qaeda attacks would be “very difficult” without a U.S. presence in Afghanistan. With the Taliban takeover complete, the Afghan government, which harbored al-Qaeda as they planned the 9/11 attacks, is back in control. There is no evidence that the Taliban will change their ways, so 20 years of human rights progress in Afghanistan will be lost. She the People reported that within hours of taking control, the Taliban had ordered local officials to produce lists of women aged 15-45 for Taliban fighters to marry. U.S. credibility has also suffered a blow on a scale not seen since the 1970s. Our Afghan partners relied on us for 20 years, and we hung them out to dry. Politico News stated that a State Department official admitted that after tens of thousands of Afghans who had assisted the U.S. war effort applied for special visas to come to the U.S. as we withdrew, “the majority” of them were left behind. They are almost certain to suffer a gruesome fate. Prospective partners across the globe have undoubtedly taken notice: they must seriously consider whether the United States can be trusted. At the outset of a generational battle with China, it is not the question we want our allies to be asking. Of course, the costs of staying in Afghanistan would have been significant: more money, and potentially more American lives. Success would not have been guaranteed. But we have seen what happens when the U.S. simply declares a war to be over instead of fighting it through. According to NPR, we withdrew from Iraq in 2011, and we were back by 2014 after ISIS established a caliphate in the country. We can only hope not to suffer the same fate in Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan debacle also raises serious questions about the basic competence of the Biden administration’s foreign policy operation. Throughout 2021, administration officials made public statements that would prove to be almost comically false. Speaking of the possibility of the Taliban taking Afghanistan, State.gov published that Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in June: “I don’t think it’s going to be something that happens from a Friday to a Monday.” On Friday, August 13, the Taliban controlled fewer than half of Afghan provinces. By that Sunday, the entire nation had fallen, according to Bill Roggio’s Twitter. In a July speech, President Biden claimed that an Afghan army of over 300,000 stood ready to defend the country from the Taliban. According to the New York Times, many of the nation’s largest cities, including Kabul, fell without a fight, with the rumored Afghan army nowhere to be found. The Biden administration is either willfully ignorant or lying to the American people. I’m not sure which is worse. More concerning than words though are the administration’s actions: they cost American lives. According to the Washington Post, before entering Kabul last month, the Taliban offered the U.S. a chance to maintain control of the city for enough time to evacuate their citizens. Instead, the Biden administration ceded the city to the Taliban, limiting the U.S. military presence to the Kabul Airport. The Hill and USA Today reported that many Americans and allied Afghans struggled to reach the airport for evacuation, and almost 200 U.S. citizens were left stranded in Afghanistan when the Biden administration refused to extend the evacuation mission beyond its self-imposed August 31 deadline. Most tragically, thirteen U.S. service members were killed in an ISIS-K terrorist attack that occurred due to the unstable security situation. Were it not for Joe Biden’s delusional decisions, they would be alive today. There can be no greater condemnation of a Commander-in-Chief.