News & Politics

PIVOT! Biden Administration Abruptly Turns to Domestic Issues After Afghanistan Debacle

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

The Biden administration knows this is a horrible week, one that has the potential to torpedo Biden’s legacy. The preliminary numbers are in, and Americans are not happy. President Biden’s approval fell below 50% for the first time in a Morning Consult poll published on Monday morning—before the final evacuation. Rasmussen’s Daily Presidential Tracking Poll reports an Approval Index of -20 since August 24. Tuesday, following news that a few hundred Americans remain stranded in Afghanistan, Biden’s total approval was 44% in Rasmussen’s poll.

According to an ABC poll released on August 29, fewer than 4 in 10 Americans approve of Biden’s handling of Afghanistan. The president insisted on adhering to the August 31 deadline for withdrawal, but those surveyed strongly disagreed, with 84% saying U.S. troops should remain until the military evacuates all Americans. There was virtually no difference across party lines in this preference. The broad consensus remained at 71% for staying until our evacuation effort is complete.

The administration ignored this rare broad consensus. The last military aircraft lifted off from the embattled Hamid Karzai International Airport at 3:29 EST on Monday afternoon, ahead of Biden’s deadline. Reports then emerged of American citizens and green card holders, including young children, left inside Afghanistan.

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According to reporters and members of Congress, some of the stranded were turned away as they tried multiple times to access the airport. The widely reported count of Americans stranded is approximately 200. There is no reported number for green card holders. America left Afghanistan just as we entered it—with the Taliban in charge and al-Qaeda roaming freely.

So, how will the Biden administration handle this horrifying spectacle on the global stage? Not very well, by all indications. Exhibit A is Pentagon spokesman John Kirby. His administration colleague, White House press secretary Jen Psaki, called Fox News reporter Peter Doocy irresponsible for saying that there are stranded Americans in Afghanistan. Yet the phrase just rolled of Kirby’s tongue in a Tuesday morning appearance on MSNBC. He told Willie Geist, “We have Americans that get stranded in countries all the time.”

The evacuation in Afghanistan is not the same as rescuing Americans from a natural disaster, an unforeseen terror attack, or pulling out an aid worker or political prisoner. America left Americans, numbering in the “few hundreds,” according to Kirby, in a war zone.

He explained that there was no role for the military at this time in getting stranded Americans out. Instead, the United States has leverage because the Taliban told us they want to govern, according to Kirby. Alluding to the possibility of something dangerously close to formally recognizing the radical Islamist regime, Kirby said our leverage is economic and diplomatic. He said that American diplomatic efforts have been relocated to Doha, Qatar, perhaps using the Qataris as an intermediary.

Related: ‘We Ended No Wars’: Veterans-Turned-Congressmen Slam Biden’s Afghanistan Withdrawal

State Department spokesman Jake Sullivan added color to the kind of leverage we may use in another Tuesday morning interview. “Good Morning America” anchor George Stephanopoulos asked Sullivan if the U.S. would be giving the Taliban aid. Sullivan responded, “First of all, we do believe there is an important dimension of humanitarian assistance that should go directly to the people of Afghanistan. They need help with respect to health and food, and other forms of subsistence. And we do intend to continue that. ”

That sounds a lot like direct foreign aid. It is almost as if we have learned nothing about what happens to the assistance we send to totalitarian regimes. Distributing aid in a tribal society run by warlords compounds the problem. The idea that the aid will end up in the hands of genuinely needy Afghanis is absurd, evidenced by similar efforts we have made the world over.

Sullivan went on to say that economic and development assistance would depend on the Taliban’s behavior. So, if they behave for a little while on the global stage, they get a payday. Meanwhile, there are reports of the Taliban going door to door to hunt U.S. and coalition allies and executing folk singers. It is still unclear whether they were hanging people off the Black Hawk helicopters we left them. And the U.S. has no way of knowing the details of the rank-and-file behavior of the Taliban with no media or boots on the ground.

Related: Black Hawk Frown: Taliban Flying U.S. Choppers

In summary, the Biden administration knowingly left American citizens in a country surrounded by the people in radical Islamist groups that executed the 9/11 attack, those who facilitated it, and members of ISIS-K we imprisoned. We are relying on diplomacy, when our allies are furious with us. Our partners in the region have lost confidence in the U.S. while Russia and China are smirking.

If all else fails, we will give money to the regime we spent $2 trillion to defeat. Any sentient American who lived through the last 20 years is justified in being furious. So, how does the Biden administration plan to handle this? With an abrupt pivot, of course.

According to Politico, the president and his Democratic allies plan to return their focus to the legislative agenda and Covid-19. They think Americans will be more dazzled by the fact we that left Afghanistan and soon forget the overwhelming disaster of the exit, the implications for America’s role on the global stage, and the increased security threats that will inevitably arise.

The cold political calculation is based on a belief inside the White House that Americans by and large will ultimately process the withdrawal from Afghanistan as a necessary, albeit difficult, act, even if they harbor lingering doubts about its execution.

“The path forward for them in the fall remains Covid and infrastructure,” said Jennifer Palmieri, a former communications director in the Obama White House who is close to the Biden administration. “The most important facts about Afghanistan remain that he got the U.S. out, in terms of what the public cares about.”

Let this be a gross miscalculation. America, our Gold Star families, and most of all those who served in Afghanistan deserve answers and accountability. Spin cannot suffice.