Former Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice sits cloistered in the White House, rarely seen or heard despite having one of the highest-profile jobs in the Biden administration. Her two dutiful former deputies, Antony Blinken and Avril Haines, have been installed at the top of the diplomatic and intelligence communities, respectively. The shadowy Ron Klain, also a former Obama aide, runs the West Wing, tightly managing a president increasingly kept from the press and public eye.
The content and countenance of the top military leaders before Congress last week means we now know that the strategy surrounding the Afghanistan withdrawal was not driven by the military but by the political apparatchiks in control of the Biden White House.
Last week was the week that the military stopped defending the indefensible.
Based on the testimony, it is now clear President Biden lied on July 8, when he emphatically answered, “No, I do not,” to the question of whether he believed the Taliban takeover was inevitable.
Mr. Biden lied when he told George Stephanopoulos on Aug. 18 that no one presented him with an option to retain 2,500 or more troops on the ground. That point was refuted by both Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark A. Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Mr. Biden lied when he repeatedly told the American people we had “no choice” but to adhere to President Trump’s Doha agreement with the Taliban. Mr. Milley made it clear this week that “While the Taliban did not attack U.S. forces … it failed to fully honor any other commitments under the Doha agreement…” He also clarified that the Taliban has never renounced al Qaeda or broke its affiliation with the terror group.
Mr. Biden lied when he said that there was a “unanimous recommendation” not to remain after Aug. 31. By then, the military had already taken a back seat in the strategic discussion, and the president’s staff had already laid down the Aug. 31 marker. Mr. Biden lied when he told the American people on Aug. 31 that the “war in Afghanistan is now over.” Head of U.S. Central Command Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie directly contradicted that assessment last week.
And Mr. Biden lied when he said that al Qaeda was “gone” from Afghanistan on Aug. 20. Therein lies the bigger problem. For all the looking back during the hearings, it was the Defense Department officials’ assessments of the future that remain perhaps the most worrisome.
Mr. Biden has repeatedly touted the U.S. military’s “over the horizon” capability to interdict Islamic terrorists that are now finding safe haven again in Afghanistan. General McKenzie put it simply, saying, “I would not say I’m confident” in that approach.
Their testimony makes it unlikely that Gen. Milley, the often-Illusive Mr. Austin, or Gen. McKenzie crafted the pullout strategy we watched unfold. They also likely did not participate to any great degree in preparing the president’s remarks on the withdrawal or prep him for media questions or interviews.
Gen. Milley’s private statements in the classified briefing late Wednesday, blaming the State Department for the collapse of the mission, only adds fuel to the theory that former top Obama aides were pulling the strings on the strategy. The nature of the withdrawal and the staggering subsequent human and natural security costs does, after all, mirror Mr. Obama’s failed Iraq policy that allowed ISIS to sweep across more than a dozen countries.
Just like everything else with this administration — from the pandemic and social spending to racial gaslighting and intrusions on privacy – Afghanistan became a casualty of left-wing politics.
Gen. Milley, Mr. Austin, and Gen. McKenzie’s performances before Congress will only add to the American people’s lack of confidence in this administration. The hearings showed a sidelined military leadership struggling to clean up a mess made by the president’s aides and even more questions about who is running the show.
• Tom Basile is the host of “America Right Now” and “Wake Up America Weekend” on Newsmax Television, author, and former Bush Administration official.