August 25, 2021

Afghanistan Withdrawal Deadline

“U.S. President Joe Biden declared Tuesday he is sticking to his Aug. 31 deadline for completing a risky airlift of Americans, endangered Afghans and others seeking to escape Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.” AP News

Both sides are critical of Biden’s decision not to extend the deadline:

“On Tuesday the Taliban escalated by barring Afghans from even going to the airport. ‘We are not in favor of allowing Afghans to leave,’ said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. Yet in his remarks Tuesday at the White House, Mr. Biden raised no objection to this command that could strand thousands of Afghan allies. The White House and Pentagon say they don’t even know how many Americans are still in Afghanistan. As for the Afghans, James Miervaldis of the nonprofit No One Left Behind tells us via email that ‘we’ve got a list of 1,200 families (approx 6,000 people) who have their visas in hand. Really curious how the President is going to get them inside the airport and fly out before 8/31.’”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“President Biden should commit to staying in Afghanistan until every American citizen is rescued from behind the enemy lines of the Taliban. And that withdrawal should occur on our terms and not the Taliban’s… Thousands of Americans are still stranded in Afghanistan, not just in Kabul, but across the country without the capability of getting to the airport because the Taliban controls all access to the airport. The safety of those Americans is right now reliant on the Taliban, not the U.S. government. That is inexcusable…

“The Biden administration must make clear to the Taliban that U.S. troops will not leave Afghanistan until every American citizen is safely able to leave. And that the Taliban will pay a price for harming Americans or denying them access to the airport. President Biden should also enable our military to rescue those from across the country who are unable to get to the airport.”
Michael R. Pompeo, Fox News

“Biden's fellow G7 leaders, led by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, pressed the US President to extend [the August 31st] deadline in order to get foreign citizens, Afghan people who have aided allied troops and other vulnerable groups out of the country. But Biden stood firm. As America's allies -- most notably in Europe -- see it the United States is walking away, washing its hands of a crisis it played a large part in creating, and with scant regard for the problems that doing so creates elsewhere. As one senior European official told CNN: ‘When America reversed course on Syria, it sparked a crisis in Europe -- not the US.’…

“Leslie Vinjamuri, director of the US and the Americas Programme at Chatham House, says people will ‘judge the US in Afghanistan based on how it manages the unfolding humanitarian situation, whether it takes large numbers of immigrants, what kind of humanitarian assistance it commits to.’”
Luke McGee, CNN

“For the past week, I’ve been working from Los Angeles, where I live, to support and coordinate [evacuation efforts]… A network of veterans, private sector workers, human rights activists and other volunteers, we’re coordinating on different platforms and languages, often all at once. We’re figuring out what Taliban checkpoints to avoid and what gate at the airport is the most accessible, if any are. We’re raising money, millions of dollars overnight, to charter planes. We’re endlessly compiling spreadsheets with information about Afghans who are under threat from the Taliban…

We’re doing this because the American government isn’t. United States officials claim they’re presiding over an orderly exit, but the chaos on the ground suggests otherwise… Friends and family we’ve tried to evacuate have been shot and beaten up by the Taliban, despite American promises of security at the airport… The Biden administration needs to establish security in and around the airport, beyond the Aug. 31 deadline for final withdrawal, and make certain that everyone who needs to can actually make it onto an evacuation flight… [My friend’s] life, and countless others, is at stake. Mr. Biden must act, before it’s too late.”
Arash Azizzada, New York Times

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“We may have substantial forces at the Kabul airport, but the Taliban more or less own the country… This is what it means to lose a war: You don't get to dictate terms to the victors… Despite all the ‘worse than Saigon’ headlines you may have read, the American evacuation from Kabul is going relatively smoothly. U.S. forces could be fighting bloody gun battles with Taliban forces while trying to evacuate civilians, but that's mostly not been the case due to Taliban forbearance. The situation could be much worse, and might go that direction if the United States doesn't honor its commitment.”
Joel Mathis, The Week

“[This is] the paradox at the center of the Afghanistan mess: After fighting the Taliban for 20 years, the United States is now turning to it for security assistance as it tries to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies from the country…

“The value of a security relationship with the Taliban became clear last weekend as U.S. officials were bracing for a possible attack from Islamic State terrorists on the Kabul airport. U.S. and Taliban officials in Kabul exchanged information about the threat, according to a source familiar with events. Senior Taliban officials in Doha, Qatar, are said to have been involved in the discussions as well…

“Can this militant group ever become a reliable partner? Does the United States want to see the Taliban succeed or fail in its efforts to stabilize and rule the country? Under what conditions should Biden recognize a Taliban-led government in Kabul?”
David Ignatius, Washington Post

From the Right

“Rejecting all calls to extend the US military presence in Afghanistan, President Joe Biden is sticking to his delusional Aug. 31 deadline, even as the White House seems to admit that it’ll be impossible to complete the evacuation by then… Rather than heed the counsel of US allies who fought beside us, Biden is yielding to the Taliban, which blustered that any extension would cross their ‘red line.’ They clearly think he fears any confrontation, and it sure looks like they read him right.”
Editorial Board, New York Post

“The airport is defensible. U.S. air supremacy would allow the military to impose devastating costs on Taliban forces in and around Kabul — costs, that is to say, sufficiently significant to bring questions as to the credibility of the Taliban's new emirate. The group craves internal political legitimacy that comes only with the apparatus of sovereign power. It would almost certainly choose a comprehensive allied evacuation that lasts a matter of weeks over the risked annihilation of its ministries, leaders, and more capable forces…

“Alas, no. Biden's unmoved deadline will boost the Taliban's growing confidence that it holds a stranglehold over the strategic initiative. The president has made it more not less likely that the Taliban will escalate its obstruction of the evacuation. Biden has made it more not less likely that the Taliban will enable or otherwise tolerate attacks on the airport by its Haqqani network allies or even its erstwhile nemesis, the Islamic State. The perception of American weakness is fuel to the jihadist fire. And Biden has just delivered a supertanker's worth of it.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

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