President Joe Biden and his aides are circling their wagons to spin a mantra that there will be time later to assess responsibilities for what went disastrously wrong and why leading to the Afghanistan calamity and its tragic aftermath that has left the fate of hundreds of American hostages and tens of thousands of supporters to the brutal whims of Taliban, al Qaeda and ISIS captors.
There’s no defensible reason I can think of to justify the decision to withdraw American troops before evacuating civilians … most particularly choosing a time to do this during the height of the summer Taliban fighting season rather than wait until winter when they would be shivering at home.
The only plausible answer should be transparently telling, given that the original exit date was scheduled for the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center twin towers and Pentagon that killed nearly 3,000 people. That timing was apparently changed to Aug. 31 to prepare the president’s muddy polling race for victory lap fanfare.
Warnings Were Denied and Ignored
When questioned about his rushed decision to pull troops out and shut down the American Embassy in Kabul, Biden replied to NPR White House correspondent Scott Detrow: “The overwhelming consensus was that — this was not — they were not going to collapse, the Afghan forces. They were not going to leave. They were not going to just abandon, put down their arms and take off. So that's what's happened.”
Biden had repeatedly claimed that “nobody could have known” that the Afghan army would collapse, yet the leaked transcript of a July 23 phone call with his then-Afghan counterpart President Ashraf Ghani reveals a very different picture.
Biden pressured Ghani that he needed to change perceptions of the Taliban's rapid advance “whether it is true or not.”
That call occurred weeks before the fall of Kabul, although Biden repeated his assertion that his team was caught flat-footed by the rapid Taliban takeover of the country.
Although Biden’s White House handlers and his top military advisers had been fully alerted that U.S. troop withdrawal would be foolhardy and dangerous, they went along with his demands to do so anyway.
An urgent July 13 “confidential dissent channel” State Department memo signed by 23 American Embassy officials in Kabul had warned that the country would rapidly collapse to Taliban control if the administration held to a planned August 31 troop withdrawal deadline.
The administration’s top generals, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a former military commander in the region, agreed that full withdrawal would create a regional instability risk.
Other advisers, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan, warned Biden about Taliban reprisals against Afghan government diplomats, military interpreters and others who had loyally worked alongside Americans over the past two decades.
Greenlighting Taliban Kabul Takeover
As reported in The Washington Post, The Taliban hadn’t intended to take Kabul on Aug. 15.
But when the Afghan president fled and Afghan forces melted away, a meeting was quickly arranged in Doha between Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, head of the U.S. Central Command, and Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradari.
“We have a problem,” Baradari told McKenzie. “We have two options to deal with it: ‘You’ — the U.S. military — take responsibility for securing Kabul, or you have to allow us to do it.”
The Post editorial observed, “Throughout the day, [President] Biden had remained resolute to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan. The collapse of the Afghan government hadn’t changed his mind.”
Abandoning Our Citizens and Allies
Joe Biden has repeated the tagline that “we will never leave anyone behind” in several speeches, including the one he gave in the run-up to the 2020 Democratic National Convention.
Most egregiously, he did exactly that when ordering the hasty, chaotic and deadly August 31 turn-tail Afghanistan surrender that has left hundreds of Americans and tens of thousands of allied supporters helplessly stranded with no foreseeable rescue plan.
American civilians and documented allies who had risked perilous journeys to reach those Kabul airport gates amid threats, violence and intimidation were repeatedly turned away following U.S. Embassy warnings to avoid traveling to the airport and to stay away from certain entry points citing “security threats.”
Although the U.S. State Department now claims that more than 124,000 people have been evacuated from the country in recent weeks, initial assessments suggest that most of the fleeing Afghan applicants for American Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) status didn’t make it through Taliban check points or the Kabul airport crush where an estimated 200 were killed in the suicide bombing assault.
Even worse, their identity information was unthinkably outed to Taliban gatekeepers by U.S. agency bureaucrats, making it easy for merciless captors to hunt them down.
On Aug. 25, Blinken had told reporters that about 4,500 of a roughly estimated 6,000 Americans “who wanted to leave” were evacuated since rescue operations began on Aug. 14.
Others remain scattered and trapped far and wide throughout Afghanistan surrounded by Taliban, al Qaeda and ISIS militants with adjacent land route borders closed to them.
Bagram Air Base and Armament Abandonments
Incomprehensibly, Biden’s hurried troop drawdown mandated abandonment of a far more accessible, securable and higher capacity evacuation location than Kabul; the large U.S. Bagram Air Base 45 miles to the north.
Bagram was not only the last U.S. airfield to remain open; it was also a vitally important nerve center for monitoring and responding to terrorist buildups and activities throughout the entire land-locked Afghan region, including Pakistan, China and Iran.
Nevertheless, on July 2, American troops were ordered to leave Bagram at dead of night without notifying either our NATO or Afghan National Defense and Security Force (ANDSF) partners. In doing so, they also left behind lots of costly equipment and materials.
Altogether, the disastrously ill-planned and executed withdrawal gifted the Taliban with a most impressive $85 billion treasure trove of deadly military bounty: 11,174 armored Humvees, 42 pickup trucks and SUVs, 54,363 machine guns, 162,043 radios, 16,035 night-vision goggles, 358,530 assault rifles and 176 artillery pieces.
The Taliban trophies also include more than 100 helicopters, including 33 Black Hawks, four C-130 transport planes, and about 60 other fixed-wing aircraft, making them one of the world’s best-equipped military forces.
A National Humiliation
Joe Biden came up with his own timetable for the optics: He wanted to be able to claim the credit for ending “America’s longest war.”
He left an enduring disgrace.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture and the graduate space architecture program. His latest of 10 books, "What Makes Humans Truly Exceptional," (2021) is available on Amazon along with all others. Read Larry Bell's Reports — More Here.
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