News & Politics

CNN: Afghanistan's Fall Is a Neville Chamberlain-esque Failure and It's Joe Biden's Fault

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen greeted Joe Biden’s vacation with a harsh but factual assessment of the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan: It is Biden’s fault.

A group of religious warriors, riding on captured American military vehicles, vanquish a US-trained military, which relinquishes much of its power without a fight.

Sound familiar?

That’s what happened in Iraq after the US withdrawal of troops from the country at the end of 2011. Within three years, an army of ISIS fighters was only a few miles from the gates of Baghdad and had taken many of the significant cities in Iraq.

It was then-Vice President Joe Biden who had negotiated the Obama administration’s drawdown from Iraq.

Anyone who has watched Joe Biden’s career could and should have seen this coming. For all his and his supporters’ claims that he is some foreign policy expert, Joe Biden has been expert at getting foreign policy questions wrong. He wanted to pay Iran cash right after 9-11, just because he wanted to. His own staff killed that notion. He’s still trying to pay Iran in cash, just as the Obama administration did while Biden was vice president. One could surmise that Joe Biden really wants to hand Iran, which backs terrorism against Israel and has declared itself an enemy of the United States since the 1979 revolution, large piles of American cash. One could also surmise that Biden is on course to exceed even Jimmy Carter’s disastrous Middle East foreign policy — a foreign policy that helped beget revolutionary Iran in the first place.

Biden wanted to carve up Iraq along sectarian lines as some kind of solution to the violence that plagued the country following the U.S. invasion. Iran was fomenting much of that violence through proxies with the express intent of hurting the United States, destabilizing Iraq, and extending its influence. Any armchair analyst could see that from the comfort of home in the U.S. I saw it first-hand in Baghdad in 2007 and was given a classified briefing on the situation in detail by American Army officers who had been fighting that war for years. But Biden evidently never saw it and still doesn’t.

When it came time to deal with Afghanistan from the Oval Office, Biden once again failed to see the facts on the ground and plan for anything. He even set the 20th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, engineered from Afghan soil by al Qaeda under the aegis of the Taliban, as the date certain for U.S. withdrawal, believing that to be some kind of PR gain. That might be the mother of all head-scratchers unless the intent was to give the Taliban, not the United States, a PR boost.

Now he’s moved that date up to August 31, while also sending more troops in to protect the U.S. embassy in Kabul and at the same time begging the Taliban not to attack that embassy. It’s all as irresponsible as it is incoherent. And it’s all vintage Joe Biden.

CNN’s Bergen likens Biden’s effort to one of history’s most notorious moments of rank cowardice.

(U.S. Ambassador Zalmay) Khalilzad agreed to pressure the Afghan government to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners, several of whom simply rejoined their old comrades on the battlefield once they were released. It’s hard to recall a more failed and counterproductive diplomatic effort. Maybe British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s attempt to reach a lasting peace agreement with Adolf Hitler in 1938 in Munich on the cusp of World War II?

Bergen notes that the fall of Afghanistan will be seen as a significant jihadist victory just as the Obama withdrawal from Iraq was. That withdrawal set the stage for ISIS to arise there and in Syria. Holy warriors poured in and the world saw them perpetrate horror after horror.

Afghanistan is unlikely to be any different. It could be worse, actually, with as many as 20 jihadist groups and tens of thousands of warriors-in-training moving in and setting up shop sure in the knowledge that the Americans will not be back.

Additionally, Pakistan and China will be looking to protect it from any outside influence for their own reasons, while India ponders its moves. Three rival, nuclear powers with records of fighting wars against one another could descend on Afghanistan directly or through proxies as the exhausted superpower slinks away. Russia is likely to want a say as well, so make that four nuclear powers with interests in Afghanistan — and three of them with little regard for human rights.

Most of this outcome was obvious as soon as Biden announced his withdrawal date with no accompanying coherent withdrawal plan. That emboldened the Taliban and dispirited U.S. allies who had worked so hard for so long to attempt to stabilize the country. It put China on notice that an opportunity had just fallen into its lap.

None of this is to suggest that the U.S. had to stay in Afghanistan forever. It is to suggest that a leader has to actually lead, and that Biden failed to do that. He failed to plan and Afghanistan will pay a very steep price. So will the United States.

Afghanistan is very likely to become two things in short order: a terrorist haven and at least a nominal ally or vassal of China once the Taliban consolidates control. China is content to let the Taliban rule as long as it does not menace China or Chinese interests, and China can see an opportunity as well.

The first sets the stage for a resurgence of global Islamist jihadism. The latter puts China in the catbird seat to exploit one of the few valuable natural resources Afghanistan has: the mining of rare earth minerals that we use in modern technology every day (but which the United States does not mine in significant quantities — but guess who does).

Both of these consequences greatly damage the United States. Both of these consequences are Joe Biden’s responsibility.