Afghanistan Is a Biden Disaster That Just Won't Go Away

AP Photo/Zabi Karimi

We just passed the first anniversary of the fall of Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021. Joe Biden’s White House did everything in its power to make sure that the anniversary passed with near total silence on the part of the national media. What happened in Afghanistan when the Taliban achieved its victory wasn’t Joe Biden’s fault; it was Donald Trump’s fault, went the narrative in the media.

Biden’s poll numbers were high last August. His approval was at 53%, and his promise to withdraw all American troops by Sept. 11, 2021, was very popular.

But Biden promised that the American withdrawal would be orderly and that anyone who wanted to leave Afghanistan would be able to do so. That was before the Taliban’s offensive took the heart out of the Afghan army and allowed the terrorists to roll into the capital unopposed.

Biden’s plan for a big ceremony on Sept. 11, 2021, that would have celebrated the end of the war (and the victory of the supporters of the 9/11 terrorists) came a cropper. And the public was aghast at images of fleeing Afghans hanging from airplanes taking off from the Kabul airport. Biden’s empty promises about an orderly withdrawal and sanctuary for Afghan interpreters turned out to be no more credible than any of his other promises.

Beyond the defeat in the public’s mind, there was a sense of American weakness, of American confusion around the world. It emboldened Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine and Communist China to openly threaten Taiwan. And for American voters, that perception has only grown over the months since the Afghanistan withdrawal.


Still, the disastrous withdrawal had an impact on voters’ perception of Biden’s performance that is proving powerful and difficult to reverse. “Afghanistan was like the dark cloud over Pigpen,” said Danielle Pletka, a senior fellow at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute, referring to the character in the Charlie Brown cartoon. “It cemented a sense of lingering weakness over the president that he couldn’t shake off, because the underlying realities are there. Americans weren’t saying, ‘I’m so worried about the plight of the Afghan people.’ They were saying, ‘I’m worried about the plight of America.’” The Afghanistan withdrawal formed the foundation of a portrait of incompetence that would just become more detailed as the domestic and economic crises piled up.

“All you have to do is show people a graph of his approval ratings and how they literally just went off a cliff,” Congressman Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), who served four tours in Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps told POLITICO. “That’s when we went underwater. It was that event. There has never been a more significant drop in his approval ratings than from the withdrawal from Afghanistan. And, sadly, he’s never recovered.”

While Afghanistan as an issue barely registers in the polls, the perceptions the chaotic withdrawal helped form in people’s heads of an incompetent administration have remained.

Even after the killing of Osama bin Laden’s successor Ayman al-Zawahiri at the end of July, there was no bounce in the polls for the president because al-Zawahiri’s death in Afghanistan only served to highlight Biden’s utter failure to keep his promise to prevent terrorists from making Afghanistan a base once again.

Washington Examiner:

“While the administration takes a victory lap for this, they have to inherently admit that their prior statements of al Qaeda being gone from Afghanistan are not true. Many of us made the point when the president made the statement that al Qaeda was not in Afghanistan, that it did not reflect reality, and he cited that as his main reason for leaving Afghanistan,” Rep. Mike Turner (OH), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, told the Washington Examiner in an interview. “Just as the president has shattered a balcony at the home Zawahiri was staying at, the president’s premise has been shattered.”

The U.S. withdrawal last August, which coincided with the Taliban’s rise to power again, likely lulled al Zawahiri back to Afghanistan, where he had lived with his family in recent months. Without any U.S. troops in the country to collect real-time intelligence on his apparent presence in the capital, intelligence community analysts spent months creating a “pattern of life” of the house’s occupants, including the elderly man they believed to be al Zawahiri. A senior administration official told reporters recently that they weren’t sure that he had left the house since his arrival months ago.

I’m not one who believes that the victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan was inevitable or the re-emergence of al-Qaeda was not preventable. Biden didn’t care if the Taliban took over, nor did he concern himself with al-Qaeda, ISIS, and several other Islamic terrorist groups who have now found a home in Afghanistan. His only concern was avoiding the political backlash over what was going to be an American failure and preventing the blame from falling on him and his administration.

“This was the albatross that he’s been wearing around his neck all year, even if people didn’t know that’s what it was,” left-wing analyst Brian Katulis told Politico. Six months after the withdrawal, Russia invaded Ukraine, China became much more aggressive against Taiwan, and Persian Gulf leaders balked at increasing oil production amid skyrocketing gas prices.

The world does not admire weakness. Only strength matters. Unless Biden learns that, the rest of the world is going to continue to walk all over the U.S.



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