Everything Biden Said Wouldn’t Happen in Afghanistan Is Happening
The commander in chief says, “We will not forgive. We will not forget.” But it’s hard to take him at his word at this point.
Joe Biden’s last-ditch hopes of grasping some shred of victory from the jaws of defeat exploded outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday, when two suicide bombers killed at least 13 American Marines and dozens of Afghan civilians.
After enduring more than a week of blistering media criticism, Biden’s hopes to recast his disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal hung perilously on a simple four-part strategy: Project calmness, extract Americans without suffering casualties, weather the storm for a few weeks, and allow the public and the newscycle to move on.
And as recently as Thursday morning, the media narrative was slowly shifting from the fall of Kabul to the story of a daring and competent rescue. Biden defenders were touting the evacuations (generally noting “people” evacuated, not “Americans” or “Afghan interpreters”), pushing the (no-longer-operative) talking point that “no Americans have died,” and criticizing the media’s “over the top” coverage. For a minute there, the goal to shift the historical template from Saigon and the Iran hostage crisis to Dunkirk and the Berlin airlift seemed like it was starting to take root.
Not after Thursday morning at the airport’s Abbey Gate.
In what may turn out to be the coup de grâce for our misadventure in the graveyard of empires, Biden, like America, looks old, weak, and humiliated.
Meanwhile, critics of the withdrawal look prescient. Just as warnings that a U.S. exit would lead to a Taliban takeover almost immediately proved prophetic, so too with the warnings that a U.S. withdrawal would create a safe haven for terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda.
Already rushing to get out of Dodge ahead of a self-imposed but Taliban enforced Aug. 31 deadline, this suicide attack looks likely to force Biden to further expedite his already-hurried evacuation. One week ago, Biden said that “any attack on our forces or disruption of our operations at the airport will be met with a swift and forceful response.” In response to a question on Thursday, Biden pledged, “We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.” We’ll see. He suggested that the lethal attack—and more that may come—was an inevitable part of any withdrawal, which is certainly not what he was saying even weeks ago.
And he says that, even with only one gate into the airport remaining open, our evacuation will continue apace. Again, we’ll see. During a Thursday press conference, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of the U.S. Central Command, pledged numerous times that this attack will not deter us from accomplishing our “mission,” which, ironically, is to retreat. Later, on Thursday, Biden also made that point, saying, “We will not let them stop our mission. We will continue the evacuation.” He didn’t mention that only one gate into the airport remained open after the attack, with security outside of the gate in the hands of the Taliban.
The bombing will presumably only accelerate efforts to complete the “mission” as scheduled, which, in turn, increases the odds that some American citizens—and many Special Immigrant Visa holders—will be left behind.
ISIS’s local affiliate took credit for the attack, and you have to figure that whoever’s willing to launch a terror attack on American citizens and allies before we leave will have even less incentive for good behavior towards our citizens and allies after we’re gone. The same goes for the Taliban, no matter their P.R. about being kinder, gentler fundamentalists this time around and facilitating our evacuation. There are more atrocities to come in Afghanistan and, surely, someone is planning for atrocities in America.
It was just a month ago that Biden was claiming that a Taliban takeover was anything but inevitable—a claim that quickly fell apart. Then about a week ago, Biden and his team launched a furious messaging counterattack, insisting the chaos was always inevitable.
I’m left wondering: Were these suicide bombings just part of the inevitable chaos that comes with the territory? To be honest, Biden might not be surprised by the way this has metastasized, based on his track record. “I did the Iraq thing,” he boasted in 2016, talking about the withdrawal from Iraq he backed on President Obama’s watch that led to the rise of ISIS. (He was still bragging about that withdrawal in 2019.)
Now he’s doing the Afghanistan thing.
And this time, President Biden is the decider. And he’s past the point of saving face and rapidly reaching the point of no return. How can he be expected to rescue anyone else when his presidency is already crashing?