News & Politics

With 10,000 Americans Still in Afghanistan, Biden's Nightmare Is Far From Over

AP Photo/Rahmat Gul

Joe Biden will be haunted by those images of U.S. helicopters beating a hasty retreat from Afghanistan. But his Afghanistan nightmare is only beginning.

There are between 5,000 and 10,000 Americans still stuck in Kabul, according to the Pentagon. And the military apparently has no plan to evacuate them.

The possibility, indeed, the probability, that the Taliban or one of its rogue offshoots will start snatching Americans has always been there. The reason is that the Americans will be huge bargaining chips — not just with the U.S. but with whatever government emerges in Afghanistan. Hostage takers will be able to barter for power in the chaos following the collapse of civil authority in Kabul — just like the Iranians did in the aftermath of the fall of the Shah.

Josh Rogin:

The U.S. Embassy staff have all been safely transported to the Kabul airport, officials say. But as the U.S. military struggles to even secure the airport grounds, thousands of U.S. citizens who didn’t make it there yet are hiding and hoping someone saves them before roaming Taliban gangs find them. …

An administration official who was not authorized to speak on the record told me that there are an estimated 10,000 U.S. citizens in the country, with the vast majority in or near Kabul. Some are residents, journalists or aid workers who may not want to leave. Most are scrambling to escape. Some are dual nationals or children of Americans who may not have the proper passport or visas, but the State Department has not told them how to fix their paperwork.

Ed Morrisey points out the “disgraceful” lack of a plan for getting our people out.

No one’s surprised by that by now. The White House had no clear plan for an orderly withdrawal even of its embassy, let alone the contractors, aid workers, and journalists who came to Afghanistan. It didn’t even apparently occur to Biden and his team that they would need to have these plans in place until the Taliban came into the streets of Kabul. The failure here is astounding, inexplicable, and entirely disgraceful.

The real-world tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan is juxtaposed against a political backdrop that finds the presidency of Joe Biden hanging by a thread. In one poll, independents gave Biden’s speech an “F” with Democrats giving it only a “C.”

“People want to hear what he’s going to do to fix it. There are so many unanswered questions,” pollster Lee Carter said on Fox News. “People have more questions left now than when he started his speech, and he didn’t address what’s most important to the American people.”

Even Biden’s political allies are running for cover.

NBCNews:

Before Biden spoke, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., said he would demand to know “why we weren’t better prepared for a worst-case scenario involving such a swift and total collapse of the Afghan government and security forces.”

Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis, who visited Afghanistan as a Senate aide in 2011, said Biden should clean house.

“President Biden’s team failed him across the board,” Kofinis said. “Not only should his national security adviser and his secretary of state be fired immediately, but anyone who let this national disgrace happen should be fired. … Biden either makes immediate changes or he may not have much of a presidency left after this.”

Someone is going to have to fall on his sword — perhaps more than one top aide. A betting man might choose Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as the sacrificial lamb, but frankly, that’s not going to happen. Austin is an African-American and the idea of Joe Biden firing a black cabinet member for anything would be hard for many of Biden’s racial allies to swallow. More likely, it will be someone from the national security council. Canning national security advisor Jake Sullivan would be a lot easier.

There are currently 5,000 troops either at the Kabul airport or in transit. If Biden is going to safeguard the thousands of Americans still in Afghanistan and get them out, he may need twice that number.