On Saturday, while announcing he was sending 5,000 U.S. troops in to evacuate American and allied personnel ahead of the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, President Joe Biden made one thing clear: The buck didn’t stop with him.
No, this was all former President Donald Trump’s fault: “When I came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor — which he invited the Taliban to discuss at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 of 2019 — that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on U.S. Forces,” Biden said in the statement.
“Shortly before he left office, he also drew U.S. Forces down to a bare minimum of 2,500. Therefore, when I became President, I faced a choice — follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our Forces and our allies’ Forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict.
“I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan — two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth.”
He’s ending the war — but don’t blame him that it’ll all end in tears. Also, never mind the fact the Biden administration’s drawdown of forces wasn’t contingent on conditions on the ground.
“This is not conditions-based,” an administration official told The Washington Post in April. “The president has judged that a conditions-based approach … is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever. He has reached the conclusion that the United States will complete its drawdown and will remove its forces from Afghanistan before September 11th.”
Also, never mind the fact that just a month ago, Biden was telling us all that he was confident the Afghan military could beat the Taliban.
During a July 8 media briefing, he said it wasn’t inevitable that the Taliban would take over after the drawdown: “Because you — the Afghan troops have 300,000 well-equipped — as well-equipped as any army in the world — and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban,” he said, according to a White House transcript. “It is not inevitable.”
He added, “I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped, and … more competent in terms of conducting war” and reaffirmed “the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”
Over the weekend, GOP lawmakers slammed Biden and his buck-passing, arguing the fall of Afghanistan lay squarely on his shoulders.
On CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday, House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise told host Nancy Cordes the fall of Afghanistan wasn’t inevitable and that the administration had ignored key precepts of the deal set in place by former President Trump.
“It’s a very dire situation when you see the United States embassy being evacuated,” the Louisiana Republican said. “In fact, you just had President Biden a few days ago saying you wouldn’t see helicopters evacuating the embassy like Saigon. And yet here we are. This is — this is President Biden’s Saigon moment.”
“We’ve seen a lot of finger-pointing and blaming — you know, there used to be a saying that the buck stops here on the president’s desk, and [Biden] wants to blame everybody else,” he continued.
“President Trump had an agreement in place that was conditions-based — and those conditions were not met. In fact, many of the conditions included that the Taliban wouldn’t overtake the cities that they have now overtaken under President Biden’s leadership.
“So, President Biden didn’t follow through on the conditions that were in place. He just let them come and run roughshod in there, destroying documents, burning documents at the embassy and trying to get everybody out.”
Scalise was referring to the scene at the American embassy in Kabul on Sunday, where CBS News reported that officials were busy destroying hard drives and documents, removing the alarms and stripping the building of cameras.
In an appearance Friday on Fox News, as it was clear the Taliban’s momentum was accelerating, Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa said the responsibility for the rise of the Taliban was “all on President Biden’s shoulders.”
“This is a very grim reality, not just for the United States but for so many of our partners around the world to see Afghanistan fall like this,” said Ernst, the first female combat veteran elected to the Senate.
“It is all on President Biden’s shoulders. This rapid and haphazard withdrawal of American troops, of course, before we knew that our embassy would be safe, before we had our Afghan interpreters and other friends out of Afghanistan, to allow it to fall like this without any sort of plan or recourse, it is shameful. And again, it is all on President Biden.”
“What we had were 2,500 troops on the ground, advising and assisting the Afghan national defense security forces,” she added.
“They were capable of holding off the Taliban with that very small contingent of American forces. We were able to have eyes and ears on the ground, picking up intelligence, knowing the Taliban and al-Qaida’s moves.
“When we started this withdrawal, we lost that type of contact. We lost support for the Afghan security forces.”
In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the situation in Afghanistan “a shameful failure of American leadership.”
Without mentioning Biden’s attempt to shift the blame onto Trump, the Kentucky Republican said the sorry end of this affair could have been foreseen by everyone but the man in the Oval Office.
“The rapid advance of the Taliban was expected after the US abandonment of Afghan security forces. The plight of innocent Afghans was predicted, and the challenges of safely evacuating US personnel and innocent Afghans have been magnified by our inexplicable withdrawal from Bagram Air Base. And the likelihood that Al Qaeda will return to plot attacks from Afghanistan is growing,” McConnell said.
“Everyone saw this coming except the President, who publicly and confidently dismissed these threats just a few weeks ago. The strategic, humanitarian, and moral consequences of this self-inflicted wound will hurt our country and distract from other challenges for years to come.”
“Terrorists and major competitors like China are watching the embarrassment of a superpower laid low,” he added.
Trump also condemned Biden’s abdication of responsibility.
Biden, Trump said in a Saturday statement, “ran out of Afghanistan instead of following the plan our Administration left for him — a plan that protected our people and our property, and ensured the Taliban would never dream of taking our Embassy or providing a base for new attacks against America. The withdrawal would be guided by facts on the ground.”
“What a disgrace it will be when the Taliban raises their flag over America’s Embassy in Kabul,” he added. “This is complete failure through weakness, incompetence, and total strategic incoherence.”
That won’t be the president’s line when he eventually does speak on the fall of Afghanistan — something he’s yet to do. No doubt there’ll be more dodges, more blame apportioned to the former president, more talk about how, if the Afghan people couldn’t govern themselves, this was going to happen anyway.
America has made a plethora of mistakes in Afghanistan, but this final set is all Joe Biden’s.
He refused to let the withdrawal in Afghanistan be guided by conditions on the ground. Now, the Taliban have taken the country, the Americans yet to be evacuated are
potentially at their whim and the country is again being run by an ultra-Islamist terror group after 20 years of U.S. presence.
The buck stops with Biden. Everyone saw this coming but him. Now, the Afghans must bear the consequences.