Americans can debate whether there was good reason to leave Afghanistan after 20 years, but what can’t be debated are the disastrous consequences of President Joe Biden’s precipitous pullout.
President Biden, we see you. When you look into the camera and say that everything is under control, that our allies aren’t angry with us, and that you trust the Taliban to let American citizens make their way safely to the Kabul airport to evacuate, we see you. When you say that no one saw this disaster coming and that you planned for every possible contingency, we see you. We know these are lies.
Even those in the media who had fawned all over you for the last seven months and glossed over your many mistakes at the southern border and elsewhere won’t cover for you anymore with Afghanistan. It’s so obviously bad that no amount of spinning or truth-denying can hide what’s actually going on.
You were chief among those who called our previous president a liar and claimed that you would be the standard-bearer of transparency as president. It’s time to take a look in the mirror.
You ignored the recommendations of military leaders, the intelligence community, and our NATO allies.
American citizens trapped inside Afghanistan have no assurances from our government that they will be safely evacuated as the Taliban surrounds the country’s only working airport.
The Taliban is going door-to-door and shooting and hanging any Afghan who worked with the United States over the last 20 years. It’s a prelude to what’s to come for tens of thousands of loyal Afghans who may be left behind because of your lack of an evacuation plan.
Millions of Afghan women and girls will lose their most basic rights as the Taliban forces them back into a new era of repression and physical and sexual abuse. American troops are now forced to stand by while 13-year-old girls are torn from their families and sold into sexual slavery.
And the trust we had with our NATO allies who served alongside us has been unquestionably compromised as they received no warning of the pullout and now struggle to get their own people out of Afghanistan.
Moreover, the Taliban has been made even stronger with billions of dollars worth of American military equipment that you failed to extricate; it’s freeing former members of ISIS and other terrorists from Afghan prisons; the U.S. homeland is considerably less safe as terrorists now have the entire country of Afghanistan as their base of operations for planning attacks against the U.S. and our allies.
Until two weeks ago, the Taliban was a decentralized insurgency after being ousted from power by a U.S.-led coalition after September 11, 2001, attacks on America. Now, tragically, the Taliban will control more of Afghanistan than it did 20 years ago before the U.S. invaded.
In 2021, the U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan was nothing like it was when hundreds of thousands of troops were there over the last 20 years. Instead, it was a contingent of about 2,500 U.S. troops—most of whom were training the Afghan military, with the remainder conducting counterterrorism missions.
This small contingent was enough to keep the Taliban out of power and terrorists at bay.
President, Biden, your incoherent exit strategy has plunged Afghanistan into chaos. You blamed the Afghan troops for not fighting back, but how can you expect them to function when you pulled out all logistical, air, and intelligence support overnight? And you can’t blame your military leaders or the intelligence community because they told you this would happen if you proceeded with no discernible plan.
Despite your continued reluctance to admit it, the Afghanistan withdrawal has been an unmitigated disaster.
In the immediate term, your first priority must be to evacuate all Americans and the Afghans who helped us. In the longer term, it will take years for the U.S. to rebuild trust with our allies and with locals where we have military operations and rely on their assistance. One can only wonder how long it will take for other nations and those fighting for freedom worldwide even to begin to trust us again.
Not having the support of our allies becomes an even more dangerous prospect when one considers how you have emboldened the resolve of our adversaries with this pullout. Countries like China, Russia, and Iran will now be more willing to test how far they can push us.
Finally, we must now also prepare for the inevitable and immediate elevated threat of terrorist attacks on our homeland, as we have let the battlefield come to our shores.
• Kay C. James is president of The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).