Articles

The Afghanistan Withdrawal Debacle Didn’t Have To Happen

August 18, 2022
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President Biden destroyed the value of America’s word, diminished our global influence, and made the world more dangerous when he surrendered in Afghanistan a year ago this week. The Taliban, a jihadist terror movement and avowed enemy of the U.S., could claim to have defeated the world’s mightiest nation.

Even if you supported withdrawal in general, it’s impossible to dismiss the scenes of chaos at the Kabul airport, American aircraft taking off with frantic Afghans clinging to landing gear, and 13 flag-draped coffins arriving at Dover Air Force Base, American military killed by an ISIS suicide bomber.

Now comes a 121-page report, “ ‘A Strategic Failure’: Assessing the Administration’s Afghanistan Withdrawal,” from Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Led by Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the lawmakers lay out a precise, damning case.

The charges include misleading the American people. Contrary to White House claims, the report says allies and senior U.S. military commanders “supported a continued conditions-based deployment in Afghanistan” of 2,500 American and 6,000 allied troops to advise and undertake selected counterterrorism missions.

But insisting, seemingly without evidence, that it would actually require “tens of thousands” of additional U.S. troops, Mr. Biden instead executed an unconditional withdrawal. This decision wasn’t backed by our military or coalition partners, whom Mr. Biden didn’t really consult in advance of his decision.

The Republicans argue that having decided to retreat regardless of conditions on the ground, the Biden administration then didn’t properly plan or prepare for our exit. Team Biden “repeatedly delayed critical action that was necessary to mitigate the likely consequences.”

The administration acted as if none of this mattered. Though Afghanistan quickly fell to the Taliban, Mr. Biden called the chaotic retreat an “extraordinary success.” Even today there are more than 100 Americans—and tens of thousands of Afghans eligible to come to the U.S. including many who supported our troops—stranded in Afghanistan because of this administration’s incompetence.

This week, the White House attacked the report in a three-page response by National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson, who blamed Donald Trump. The former president negotiated a “flawed deal” with the Taliban. He reduced the number of U.S. troops, leaving the Taliban “in its strongest military position since 2001.” He made “no preparations . . . to begin evacuating our Afghan allies.”

All true, yet this hardly gets Mr. Biden off the hook. If he disagreed with the Trump deal, why didn’t he reject it? He jettisoned plenty of other Trump policies. If there were too few American troops in Afghanistan, why not increase them, even modestly? If the structures weren’t in place to evacuate Afghan allies, why didn’t the administration build them in its seven months in office before the withdrawal?

Ms. Watson also made the Orwellian claim that the U.S. surrender “strengthened our national security” and “restored our credibility on the world stage.” That’d be laughable if it weren’t so sad.

In fact, Mr. Biden’s Afghan fiasco dispirited our allies and encouraged our adversaries. The Chinese can point to the U.S. retreat as evidence to other nations that America is untrustworthy. Seeing Mr. Biden abandon Afghanistan may well have emboldened Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine. The greatest tragedy is what has happened to the Afghan people as the Taliban’s return ended their nation’s attempts to protect human rights—especially for women—and ensure a more prosperous future.

Mr. Biden hasn’t been able to escape the political fallout. His approval peaked on April 7, 2021, at 55.7% in the RealClearPolitics average. It slowly declined over four months to 50.1% by Aug. 14. A month later it was at 45%. He’s never recovered. The Afghanistan disaster shattered his reputation for competence and, with rampant inflation, his approval stood at 40.6% Wednesday.

Reluctant congressional Democrats have limited Republican opportunities to question administration officials at length about their preparations (or lack thereof) for the withdrawal, restricting the number, length and breadth of oversight hearings. So the House Republican report, while deeply researched, couldn’t be informed by extensive open hearings. The State Department also brushed off inquiries and denied access to key witnesses.

But if Republicans win the House this fall and Mr. McCaul becomes Foreign Affairs chairman, they’ll be able to give this preventable disaster the attention it deserves. Meanwhile, the Afghan people are being terrorized and brutalized every day, especially women and girls.

It didn’t have to happen this way.

Read More at the WSJ

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