August 17, 2021

HE AND OBAMA DID THE SAME THING TO IRAQ IN 2011, AND HE LEARNED NOTHING: Biden Wanted to Leave Afghanistan. He Knew the Risks. Generals and diplomats warned about a pullout, but the president told his team the U.S. was simply providing life support for the Kabul government while neglecting more pressing issues.

In his Monday speech defending America’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, President Biden said he would not shrink from his share of responsibility.

That would include his decision to bring home U.S. troops, which was made against the recommendations of his top military generals and many diplomats, who warned that a hasty withdrawal would undermine security in Afghanistan, several administration and defense officials said.

The president’s top generals, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley, urged Mr. Biden to keep a force of about 2,500 troops, the size he inherited, while seeking a peace agreement between warring Afghan factions, to help maintain stability. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who previously served as a military commander in the region, said a full withdrawal wouldn’t provide any insurance against instability.

In a series of meetings leading up to his decision, military and intelligence officials told Mr. Biden that security was deteriorating in Afghanistan, and they expressed concerns both about the capabilities of the Afghan military and the Taliban’s likely ability to take over major Afghan cities.

Other advisers, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan, raised the possibility of Taliban attacks on U.S. forces and diplomats as well as the Afghans who for two decades worked alongside them. Ultimately, neither disagreed with the president, knowing where he stood.

Mr. Biden, however, was committed to ending the U.S. military role in the country. The president told his policy advisers the U.S. was providing life support for the Afghan government, which, in his view, was corrupt and had squandered billions of dollars in American assistance, according to current and former administration officials. He wanted to reorient American foreign policy onto what he sees as more pressing international matters, including competition with China, and domestic issues including infrastructure and battling Covid. “I am deeply saddened by the facts we now face, but I do not regret my decision,” he said Monday.

The Taliban on Sunday rolled into Kabul having barely fired a shot. The onslaught triggered a chaotic evacuation of almost all U.S. diplomats, helped by thousands of American soldiers who were sent back to assist in the mission, sending shock waves around the world.

The swift takeover, punctuated by images of desperate Afghans gripping onto moving U.S. Air Force planes, raises the stakes of Mr. Biden’s decision and the way it was implemented, for him personally as well as for the administration’s foreign policy and for America’s standing in the world.

His team’s failure so far to mitigate the fallout of the withdrawal, including protecting thousands of pro-Western Afghans marooned in the capital, has some countries expressing concern about the U.S. as a partner, including on some of the very issues Mr. Biden wants to address.

America’s allies were beginning to warm to the Biden administration until this weekend, said Leon Panetta, a former defense secretary and CIA director during the Obama administration. “I’m sure that those events are raising questions about our credibility and President Biden is absolutely going to have to deal with that,” he said.

How? Honorable suicide? Too Japanese. Another pudding cup? That sounds about right.

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