In national security, there is a right and a wrong way to do things. What the American people are witnessing in Afghanistan is not only the wrong way but a betrayal.
The Afghanistan debacle—brought on by the administration of President Joe Biden—betrays the sacrifice of American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who fought and died in Afghanistan since 2001. It betrays the Afghans who assisted America and its allies in prosecuting the war against al-Qaeda after those snakes slithered from Afghanistan to attack the U.S. on 9-11-2001. And it is a betrayal of America’s reputation as a nation that can be counted upon to keep its word to its friends and foes; standing by its friends—imperfect as they may be—and making clear to its foes that when you attack the U.S., we will pursue you to the ends of the earth and like an eagle seize you in the grip of our deadly talons.
Joe Biden has betrayed much. Was that due to poor judgment or incompetence? Frankly, it is both, but it is also treachery. Coming under great criticism for the calamity that is unfolding before our eyes, Mr. Biden has reflexively—indeed predictability—blamed the policy of former President Donald Trump. That is a puerile act from a shallow man, not a responsible world leader. Mr. Biden completely embraced the withdrawal policy of President Trump. He could have rejected it, as he has self-righteously rejected every other Trump policy. He did not. He subscribed to it and therefore owns the affair entirely and inexcusably.
Consider the facts. He initially picked 11 September 2021 as the final back out of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. Fortunately, some of his more lucid advisors—they are scarce—warned that doing so on the 20th anniversary of al-Qaeda’s dastardly attack would play into the propaganda line of the Taliban. Mr. Biden then accelerated the abandonment of Afghanistan to the end of August, an obvious political ploy that was doomed to failure and destined to produce the result we are witnessing.
It did not need to happen this way. Yes, we have made many mistakes during the Afghanistan saga. No, that does not mean we are without the ability to leave in good order. Mr. Biden rejected a “conditions” timeline for a “date certain” one. He all but rolled out the red carpet to the Taliban thugs to seize the government and make America look like a deteriorating former great power.
He could have waited until the winter season when the Taliban seeks refuge in neighboring Pakistani bases. That would have allowed the U.S. and its allies to transition each province in Afghanistan to that nation’s Army in an orderly manner that would have enhanced their ability to resist a Taliban takeover in the months that would follow. But Mr. Biden was determined to cut and run. Now all that will be cut are the throats of Afghans who supported the U.S., and all that will run is their blood in the streets. Betrayal may be too kind a description for what Mr. Biden has done.
In recent months, the President naively showed his belly to the Taliban, determined to leave Afghanistan no matter the consequences. The Taliban are truly feudalistic barbarians, but they are not stupid. They took the President at his word, even as Mr. Biden was breaking it with Afghanistan’s legitimate government. That is treachery.
But President Biden’s incompetence and incomprehension were also on full display. Just last month, he declared that “the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.” No doubt, just as he is blaming Mr. Trump, he will eventually blame his intelligence services. No, this catastrophe is solely the President. As Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates so accurately stated of Mr. Biden, “I think he‘s been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” We can add the past 8 months to that timeline.
The Afghan president has fled the country. The U.S. is rushing to evacuate American citizens while abandoning our embassy. The Taliban is releasing al-Qaeda prisoners. This is a shameful disaster. The ill-conceived Biden policy in Afghanistan is reminiscent of April 30, 1975, when Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese communist. As a young lieutenant assigned to a battalion in West Germany, I was the duty officer that day. Listening to radio news broadcasts in the duty office, my Battalion Commander stopped by and listened with me.
Afterward, he shared his sullen yet pensive thoughts about Vietnam. He fought there. He lost troops there. And he felt betrayed by America’s leaders for how they ended that war.
Forty-six years later, Joe Biden—having learned nothing from history—is betraying many others.
• L. Scott Lingamfelter is a retired U.S. Army Colonel and combat veteran, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, and author of Desert Redleg: Artillery Warfare in the First Gulf War (University Press of Kentucky).