August 16, 2021

Fall of Kabul

The Taliban swept into Afghanistan’s capital Sunday after the government collapsed… As the insurgents closed in, President Ashraf Ghani flew out of the country… Helicopters raced overhead throughout the day to evacuate personnel from the U.S. Embassy. Smoke rose near the compound as staff destroyed important documents, and the American flag was lowered. Several other Western missions also prepared to pull their people out.” AP News

Both sides are critical of the withdrawal process and lament the consequences for Afghan civilians:

“Why did we withdraw all troops weeks ago, knowing the risk that would create of a lightning Taliban advance, only to have to reinsert 5,000 this weekend to get American diplomats out safely before they were massacred by advancing jihadis? And just as importantly, why didn’t we start evacuating Afghans who had aided U.S. forces months ago? Biden should have made up his mind on Afghanistan by the time he took office on January 20. If he was committed to withdrawal, the order could have been given that day to begin evacuating Afghan interpreters and other allied agents…

“‘The puzzle for me is the absence of contingency planning: If everyone knew we were headed for the exits, why did we not have a plan over the past two years for making this work?’ said retired general Douglas Lute to the NYT… Americans can tolerate withdrawal from Afghanistan happily. They can even tolerate seeing the Taliban back in power. But they won’t tolerate the needless humiliation of having our diplomats chased out in a panic or the needless horror of seeing Afghans who trusted us to guarantee their safety betrayed.”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

“Perhaps the effort to rebuild the country was doomed from the start. But our abandonment of the Afghans who helped us, counted on us, staked their lives on us, is a final, gratuitous shame that we could have avoided. The Biden administration failed to heed the warnings on Afghanistan, failed to act with urgency—and its failure has left tens of thousands of Afghans to a terrible fate. This betrayal will live in infamy.”
George Packer, The Atlantic

“Numberless Afghans who had worked for years alongside American troops, civil society groups, aid organizations and journalists, including the many who had worked with The New York Times, abruptly found themselves in mortal danger on Sunday… This calamity cannot be laid alone at President Biden’s feet, but it is incumbent on the current administration to make right what has gone wrong with the withdrawal plans. The U.S. military is, if nothing else, a logistical superpower, and it should move heaven and earth and anything in between to rescue those people who have risked everything for a better future. Red tape shouldn’t stand between allies and salvation.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

“Mr. Trump’s withdrawal deadline was a mistake, but Mr. Biden could have maneuvered around it. He knows this because his Administration conducted an internal policy review that provided him with options. The Taliban had already violated its pledges under the deal. Mr. Biden could have maintained the modest presence his military and foreign-policy advisers suggested. He could have decided to withdraw but done so based on conditions on the ground while preparing the Afghans with a plan for transition and air support. Instead he ordered a rapid and total withdrawal at the onset of the annual fighting season in time for the symbolic target date of 9/11.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Right

From the Left

A libertarian's take

“Reputations for resolve are not quite as portable as the commentariat believes. The U.S. desire to withdraw from Afghanistan does not translate into a similar preference about Europe, Latin America or the Pacific Rim, all of which contain more vital U.S. interests. Indeed, Chatham House Director Robin Niblett is correct when he tweets that ‘withdrawal from Afghanistan does not equate to a pullback from core US alliance commitments in Europe & Asia. It’s a brutal re-focus in their favour.’…

“What the events of the past week do [though] is shred America’s reputation for policy competence… Policy competence, an essential component of soft power, is a force multiplier. It means that other actors on the global stage believe in your ability to do what you say you can do. Policy incompetence has the opposite effect… Long-standing allies are not going to fret about U.S. resolve in the face of Afghanistan. They are going to worry about whether the Biden administration will mess up other policy initiatives as badly as it messed up in Kabul.”
Daniel W. Drezner, Washington Post

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.