Columns

Chaos on the Ground, Collapse at the Top

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

The failure of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, though great, is of comparatively minor importance when compared to the manifest collapse of the Washington intelligence, diplomatic, and military institutions on which national and Western security depend. This transformed what was potentially a local debacle into a strategic crisis of the first order.

The fact that no senior official was fired and the administration insists on characterizing obvious ineptitude as resolute excellence underlines, rather than belies, their delusional character. But it fools no one except a dwindling number of media hacks. We see you Joe — and so do the Taliban, the NATO allies, and, worst of all, America’s most dangerous foes.

Thus self-blindfolded, Biden’s Washington stumbles toward three crises: the August  31 troop evacuation deadline set by the Taliban; the forthcoming meeting demanded by major allies; and the inevitable challenge from China.

August 31 is when what the administration now euphemistically calls an evacuation turns into a hostage situation. “The Taliban are warning President Biden that extending the Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan as the administration struggles to evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies from the country would ​bring ‘consequences.’”

“If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations — the answer is no. Or there would be consequences​,” he said, adding that extending the deadline would “create mistrust between us.”​

Prolonging the “occupation,” he said, will “provoke a reaction.”​

It is a deadline that may be difficult or impossible to meet. “The [British] PM will use an emergency G7 summit of the world’s most powerful leaders to appeal to the president to delay the 31 August deadline to tackle the chaos and mayhem at Kabul airport.” But former DHS secretary Jeh Johnson says the situation at Kabul airport is “going to get a lot worse before it gets better.”

Biden could break NATO. “Remember when candidate Joe Biden said America ‘needs a leader the world respects’”?

Afghanistan was an operation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and America’s NATO allies have invested significant blood and treasure in the conflict. That includes tens of thousands of troops over 20 years, more than 1,100 of whom were killed, and billions of dollars spent on the military operation and reconstruction effort.

This was a fulfillment of their obligations after the Sept. 11 terror attack led to the first invocation of the mutual self-defense clause in NATO’s founding treaty. European allies also have a stake in preventing a nation of nearly 40 million people from collapsing into a failed state that could trigger more mass migration to Europe, or become a new breeding ground for terrorism.

Biden’s withdrawal turned into “the greatest debacle NATO has ever seen.”

“I think that what has happened shows that Europe needs to develop this famous ‘strategic autonomy’ in order to be ready to face challenges that affect us eventually,” European Union High Rep. Josep Borrell, a former Spanish politician who now leads the bloc’s diplomatic corps, told reporters Tuesday.

But there’s no problem as far as Washington is concerned. It’s all a “made-up crisis” for which no one is particularly responsible.

It’s like hearing an inflight message from an airline captain and realizing there’s something completely off about him. Thus, while there is an acute tactical crisis in Kabul there is a far larger strategic crisis in the West brought on by the collapse of Joe Biden’s command. This ensures that the catastrophe, rather than diminishing, has only just begun. It will not end when the last qualified person leaves Kabul but when the U.S. political system has found a constitutional way to clean house.

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