News & Politics

Was the Afghanistan Tragedy Avoidable?

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Democrats are defending Joe Biden’s actions that led to the debacle in Afghanistan by pretending the debate is about whether he was right or wrong in ending “The Forever War.” That’s a strawman argument. Very few people are arguing we shouldn’t have left Afghanistan. Most are arguing we should have left long ago.

The real debate about the tragedy in Afghanistan is whether competent leadership could have avoided it.

Biden defended his administration by pointing the finger at everyone else. It’s Trump’s fault because he “left a bare cupboard” in Afghanistan. Apparently, there was no plan by the Trump administration to evacuate from the Kabul airport if the Taliban took over.

Why there should have been a plan in the first place is a question that goes unanswered — especially since the endgame envisioned by most American policymakers during the Trump years was a gradual drawdown of American troops while the Afghan army “stood up” to replace them. That drawdown would have taken place simultaneously with the conclusion of a negotiated agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Biden’s rush to withdraw American troops gave the Taliban absolutely no incentive to negotiate. They attacked thanks to the opening given them by the Biden administration. The Afghanistan national army, seeing that they had been abandoned by the United States, realized the hopelessness of their plight and skedaddled.

Why would Biden expect that Afghan army to stand and fight when he had signaled loud and clear to the Taliban that the U.S. would politely step aside and let the Taliban pass?

Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Biden claimed that Afghan leaders Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah had refused his advice to negotiate with the Taliban. That is false. They had been negotiating with the Taliban for months, under enormous pressure from the Trump Administration. The problem is that the Taliban had no incentive to negotiate in good faith when it knew the U.S. was leaving and would be able to take its chances on a military victory.

Like all good liberal internationalists, Mr. Biden thinks you can achieve a diplomatic outcome by diplomacy alone. Mr. Biden’s claim that the U.S. will continue to support the Afghan people and stand for human rights and the women of Afghanistan is the same kind of internationalist twaddle. The Taliban is taking the women of Afghanistan back to the Dark Ages, and the “international community” will do nothing to stop it. Mr. Biden’s words of “support” will be cold comfort when the Taliban knocks on the doors of women who worked in the Afghan government.

Biden did not face Hobson’s choice on Afghanistan withdrawal. There were several possible outcomes — all of which were predicated on the U.S. not cutting and running while leaving the Afghan army, government, and people to fend for themselves.

Perhaps most concerning of all is that “The Biden Doctrine” of surrender and panicked retreat might give some other bad actors in the world ideas.

The world has seen a President portraying surrender as an act of political courage, and retreat as strategic wisdom. As we write this, the world’s rogues are looking for ways to give him a chance to deliver a similar speech about other parts of the world.

It’s a long way to 2024 and the American people have short memories — especially when it comes to our humiliations. But whatever claims that Biden could have made of being superior in intelligence and political skills to Donald Trump have been blown up by his fumbling in Afghanistan.