“The bucks stops with me,” Joe Biden has said, more than once, typically right after he’s blamed everyone else for the botched Afghanistan withdrawal that ultimately caused the deaths of thirteen U.S. servicemembers and countless others.
In the same August 31 speech in which Biden declared the mission an “extraordinary success,” he also blamed Trump for putting him in the position to withdraw in the first place.
“My predecessor, the former president, signed an agreement with the Taliban to remove U.S. troops by May the 1st, just months after I was inaugurated,” Biden pointed out. ” It included no requirement that the Taliban work out a cooperative governing arrangement with the Afghan government.” Biden also claimed that by the time he took office, “The Taliban was in its strongest military position since 2001, controlling or contesting nearly half of the country.”
“The previous administration’s agreement said that if we stuck to the May 1st deadline that they had signed on to leave by, the Taliban wouldn’t attack any American forces, but if we stayed, all bets were off,” Biden continued. “So we were left with a simple decision: Either follow through on the commitment made by the last administration and leave Afghanistan, or say we weren’t leaving and commit another tens of thousands more troops going back to war.”
Then Biden pivoted to blaming his advisors. “The decision to end the military airlift operations at Kabul airport was based on the unanimous recommendation of my civilian and military advisors — the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and all the service chiefs, and the commanders in the field.”
Biden did not mention that he repeatedly ignored the recommendations of his advisors when it came to how the withdrawal was carried out. But, hey, that doesn’t fit the narrative. Nevertheless, Biden then assured us, “I take responsibility for the decision,” and suggested that the evacuation went as well as it could have gone. “Imagine if we had begun evacuations in June or July, bringing in thousands of American troops and evacuating more than 120,000 people in the middle of a civil war. There still would have been a rush to the airport, a breakdown in confidence and control of the government, and it still would have been a very difficult and dangerous mission.”
Biden claimed no evacuation at the end of a war that could go perfectly smooth “without the kinds of complexities, challenges, and threats we faced.”
And then he pivoted back to blaming Trump. “The fact is: Everything had changed. My predecessor had made a deal with the Taliban. When I came into office, we faced a deadline — May 1. The Taliban onslaught was coming.”
Because Joe Biden has been hesitant to change things done by Trump? Is he for real? Be it the Iran Nuclear Deal, the Paris Climate Treaty, immigration policies, etc., etc. Let’s not forget, Joe Biden has built his presidential legacy on reversing everything Trump did. But apparently, Afghanistan was an exception? It wasn’t really; Biden violated Trump’s agreement with the Taliban, which ended 18 months of stability in the country.
Oh, but according to Biden, the onslaught was inevitable, set in motion by Trump, not him. Even though Biden has also said, he’s always supported leaving Afghanistan. Ending the “endless war” has been a consistent theme of the post-botched-withdrawal narrative. Had Trump not made any deal with the Taliban, Biden most certainly would have attempted a withdrawal on his own terms. In fact, he violated the agreement with the Taliban when he moved the withdrawal date to September 11, 2021.
“[The Trump administration] held the Taliban accountable at every step of the way,” Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) said last week. “Joe Biden did not. Joe Biden said, ‘Oh, look, I’ll just move the deadline down a little bit, but I’m just going to get out while the getting’s good. Because I want a photo op for September 11.’ And that’s the reality. That is the truth, and now we have dead servicemen as a result. This has been a disaster for our country.”
Of course, Joe Biden doesn’t think the withdrawal was a disaster. It was an “extraordinary success” destined to have a few complications but a success nonetheless. Except Trump made him do it, and his advisors all agreed to the plan. Bumbling Joe Biden is in the clear. He made the decision, but it was the decision Trump forced him into that all the important people allegedly agreed to! We can’t blame him. After all, he has a son who served in Kosovo and Iraq, who later died of cancer—we can’t blame Joe Biden, the commander-in-chief, for the debacle. Nope. That would be unseemly.
Joe Biden has to decide whether the withdrawal was an “extraordinary success” or not. It can’t be both. Biden can’t pat himself on the back for a job well done while pointing fingers at Trump. It doesn’t work that way. Biden owns the Afghanistan withdrawal. He came up with the plan that was ultimately executed. So he needs to man up and take the good with the bad that comes with making consequential decisions.
That’s what leaders do.