According to Reuters, U.S. intelligence estimated just last week that, given the pace of the Taliban offensive in Afghanistan, the capital of Kabul could remain in the hands of the current government for at least three months.
On Sunday, the wire service reported, the Taliban insurgents captured Jalalabad, the last major city aside from Kabul in the hands of the current government. As for the capital, The Associated Press said Saturday that reports put Taliban forces just seven miles outside the city. On Sunday, the AP reported that Taliban fighters had entered the outskirts of the city, although the group claimed it had no intentions of taking it “by force.”
(UPDATE: About 10 a.m. Eastern Time, the U.K. Independent reported that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had fled Kabul.)
Also on Saturday, President Joe Biden announced in a statement that he had “authorized the deployment of approximately 5,000 U.S. troops to make sure we can have an orderly and safe drawdown of U.S. personnel and other allied personnel, and an orderly and safe evacuation of Afghans who helped our troops during our mission and those at special risk from the Taliban advance.”
However, in the midst of what was becoming his own version of the 1975 American withdrawal from Saigon, Biden defended his decision: “One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country. And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me.”
On Saturday, however, former President Donald Trump — who also advocated for a withdrawal from Afghanistan — said it wasn’t that Biden got us out, but how Biden got us out.
Trump’s statement, issued via his Save America PAC, was, in part, a response to Biden’s remarks Saturday, which put much of the blame for the situation on Trump’s deal to draw down American presence in Afghanistan.
“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. Given that, the president claimed, he “faced a choice” to “follow through on the deal” or keep American troops there indefinitely.
However, Trump said Biden cut and ran “instead of following the plan our Administration left for him” and called the withdrawal “complete failure through weakness, incompetence, and total strategic incoherence.”
“Joe Biden gets it wrong every time on foreign policy, and many other issues,” Trump said. “Everyone knew he couldn’t handle the pressure. Even Obama’s Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, said as much.”
According to a 2014 review in The Atlantic of the Gates memoir “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” Gates — who served as secretary of defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama from 2006 to 2011 — wrote that “I think [Biden’s] been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”
That record is continuing, Trump said in his statement.
Biden “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,” Trump continued.
“The withdrawal would be guided by facts on the ground.”
Trump said his victories over the Islamic State group and its terrorist caliphate had created a “credible deterrent” that no longer existed.
“The Taliban no longer has fear or respect for America, or America’s power,” Trump said in the statement.
“What a disgrace it will be when the Taliban raises their flag over America’s Embassy in Kabul. This is complete failure through weakness, incompetence, and total strategic incoherence.”
INBOX – Trump statement on the situation unfolding in Kabul. pic.twitter.com/1E0FHRdnfL
— Disclose.tv ? (@disclosetv) August 14, 2021
Indeed, whether or not America’s drawdown in Afghanistan was necessary — both presidents agree that it was — the question of how it was managed is another. Under no circumstances should it be necessary for the world to see tweets like these, from veteran and former Democratic Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, talking about hastily evacuating anyone in Afghanistan who aided the United States during our presence there:
Here’s what the rule should be with #Afghanistan: If you helped, we get you out. If you say you helped and we can’t verify it right now, we get you out now and we’ll figure it out later.
— Jason Kander (@JasonKander) August 15, 2021
This is the kind of thing that brings up images of helicopters leaving the United States embassy in Vietnam, desperate civilians practically dangling off of them; of jumbo jets packed like cattle cars leaving Saigon Airport, filled with fleeing Westerners and Vietnamese escaping certain death at the hands of the communist army of North Vietnam.
That’s what we’re doing right now, albeit not so dramatically — yet. As The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, the Biden administration is urging the Taliban to hold off attacking Kabul until it’s able to get Americans and other foreigners out of the city and country.
There wasn’t any part of that “deal cut by my predecessor” Biden is blaming that put us in this position. In fact, it appears to be the Biden administration’s overconfidence in the strength of the Afghan military that has us scrambling to evacuate.
This is what President Biden was telling the American public about Afghanistan just over a month ago pic.twitter.com/eOzV8a8ang
— Peter J. Hasson (@peterjhasson) August 15, 2021
During a July 8 media briefing, Biden said the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan wasn’t inevitable because “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,” according to a White House transcript.
Biden went on to say that “I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped, and … more competent in terms of conducting war.” He added that “the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”
That was a little over a month ago. Now, Taliban fighters have entered the outskirts of the last major city in Afghanistan the group doesn’t control. Donald Trump’s deal isn’t to blame for that kind of strategic hubris.
That’s all Joe Biden — and his four-decade record on foreign policy.
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