by Austin Bay
August 16, 2023
The Biden administration's incompetent and needlessly hasty Afghanistan withdrawal led to disaster in August 2021.
The withdrawal became a humiliating rout, with the fear, death and departing C-17s at Kabul Airport a chaotic finale live and in color on global television.
America suffered a major diplomatic and psychological defeat that continues to have negative impacts on U.S. foreign policy.
It certainly weakens U.S. military deterrence -- the ability to deter war by convincing bad actors they will pay a heavy price. Bad actors like Xi Jinping's national-communist China and Vladimir Putin's national-socialist Russia saw the debacle and the Biden administration's spinelessness. I think Putin decided he had his chance to conquer Ukraine. Draw a straight line from Kabul in August 2021 to Kyiv in February 2022.
China still argues Biden's bug-out demonstrates American promises are unreliable. America cuts and runs. Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, the Philippines -- take note.
It didn't have to be this way. A well-executed withdrawal would have saved lives and perhaps saved the anti-Taliban government. The acronym is NEO -- Noncombatant Evacuation Operation -- "the departure of civilian noncombatants and nonessential military personnel from danger in an overseas country to a designated safe haven ... " All the essential operational details (based on hard lessons learned) are laid out in a Joint Chiefs of Staff pamphlet titled Joint Publication 3-68.
Anyone literate may read the "Joint Pub" on the internet, all seven chapters. The pamphlet provides sound planning guidance based on operational history, as lived and executed by outfits like the U.S. Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy.
The Trump administration proposed a conditions-based withdrawal. The Afghan government and the Taliban militants had to meet specific conditions. Denying Afghanistan to al-Qaida was an explicit condition. The Trump administration also wanted to keep Bagram Air Base as an intelligence base and a base to reinforce the Afghan government when necessary.
President Joe Biden went with a self-imposed Aug. 31 Afghanistan withdrawal deadline.
Conditions? This ought to be a no-brainer condition: (1) Don't leave a war zone until you've secured every American citizen.
Two other no-brainer conditions: (2) The military withdraws last, after you evacuate citizens and eligible foreign nationals. (3) When altered ground conditions threaten American lives, even a subpar president demands flexibility and backs the demand with American military power. A third-rate piker president would have told the Taliban, "We tell you when we withdraw; you don't tell us."
In early 2022 reports that al-Qaida had returned to Afghanistan began cropping up in international media. That's since been confirmed. Other jihadist organizations had "representatives" in Kabul.
Afghanistan is once again exporting jihad terror. On Aug. 15, The New York Times reported that "bored" Islamist fighters were leaving Afghanistan to fight in Pakistan. The current Taliban government in Kabul opposes the "exodus" but can't (or won't) stop it.
Asfandyar Mir of the U.S. Institute of Peace told the New York Times the Taliban are "enabling" Islamist terror in Pakistan by "...housing various elements of al-Qaida, protecting and shielding the alphabet soup of Central Asian militant organizations -- all of this challenges the idea that the Taliban are serious about not allowing Afghanistan to be a safe haven of international terrorism."
Americans aren't dying from Afghan-exported terrorism -- not yet.
I've written about Biden's July 23, 2021, phone call before but it needs to be written again. On Aug. 31, 2021, Reuters published a partial transcript of a July 23 phone call between President Biden and Afghanistan's then-president Ashraf Ghani.
Biden said: "...I need not tell you (Ghani) the perception around the world and in parts of Afghanistan, I believe, is that things aren't going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban. And there's a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture."
Translation for Ghani and media: Ignore reality; ignore my command responsibility; go with a flat-out lie that temporarily benefits me, Joe Biden.
Biden's Afghanistan debacle benefited no one but terrorists.