Afghanistan isn’t Biden’s faults
Remember, that it was Biden’s predecessor who wanted American troops out by May 2021.
Watching the fall of Afghanistan is frustrating. Listening to pundits blather about the Biden administration’s “failed” policy is infuriating. Conservatives and even some liberals berate the president for his inability to manage what has been for the last 20 years an uncontrollable foreign policy debacle. The criticism is another example of American arrogance and ignorance, as if we can control chaos and disregard history.
In April, President Biden announced the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, closing a troubling chapter in the two-decade-long war on terror that began with 9/11. Critics now insist the president should have done a better job — in only four months! — of troop and personnel withdrawal, especially of those Afghanis who supported the U.S. mission. To believe that this was within the Biden administration’s control is folly.
Of course, no Republican is going to commiserate over the poor political hand that every Democratic president of late has been dealt by his Republican predecessor. Whether it’s a war the Democrat didn’t start, an economy the Democrat didn’t crash or a pandemic the Democrat failed to control, Democratic presidents have been constantly left cleaning up Republican presidents’ messes.
But what about others who are critical of the Biden “failure”? Perhaps what they want most is an orderly retreat from Afghanistan that falsely offers some semblance of American victory. That’s what the Trump administration worked on for months. Remember, that it was Biden’s predecessor who wanted American troops out by May 2021; Biden extended the withdrawal into September. Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, directed American officials to negotiate the U.S. exit with the Taliban, not the Afghan government. Here was a clear indication of who was in charge on the ground. It was and is the Taliban.
U.S. officials under Trump and then Biden merely wanted an opportunity to get out before total Taliban victory. The strategy that America followed was the failed policy of Vietnamization, in which South Vietnamese forces were trained to replace exiting American troops. It was time, argued American leaders, for the Vietnamese to defend their own nation. It didn’t work in the 1970s, and no one really believed it would work in Afghanistan. Here was an example of following a disastrous historical precedent. The die was cast in both nations long before the end finally came.
Today’s arrogance is the belief, the expectation, that America could control Afghanistan’s descent into chaos. It was the same conceit that doomed the Afghanistan mission from the start. First was the refusal to understand that mountainous nation’s embattled history. Second was the foolish and shortsighted decision to invade Iraq, a nation that had nothing to do with 9/11. Here again, American leaders believed that they could easily control the outcome.
The reality is that the Iraq War diverted America’s focus on Afghanistan, turned the international community and many NATO partners against us, and set the nation on a long and twisted path that now ends in the fall of Kabul and total victory for the Taliban. And this is a Biden failure, to not manage a policy that was disastrous from the start?
Critics need to recognize that the mantle of America’s failure in Afghanistan rests squarely on the shoulders of the George W. Bush administration and the neoconservatives who used the 9/11 attacks for foreign policy misadventures in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.
To be sure, the United States needed a response to Osama bin Laden’s attack, but we could have done so with measured, intelligent actions that didn’t propel the nation into two decades of war, further destabilize the Middle East, and drag America’s reputation through the international mud.
This chaotic end in Afghanistan, one that reasserts the United States was never really in control, was predictable. To now blame Joe Biden for it is ridiculous.