In remarks delivered Tuesday from The White House, President Joe Biden defended the United States’ chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan as being the right policy for the right time. “I give you my word: With all of my heart, I believe this is the right decision, a wise decision, and the best decision for America.”
We’ll know soon enough if he’s right, but all the initial signs are pointing in the wrong direction. Of special concern are the unknown numbers of American citizens who’ve been left behind, something the president addressed in his speech. “We believe that about 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan with some intention to leave,” he said. “Most of those who remain are dual citizens, long-time residents who had earlier decided to stay because of their family roots in Afghanistan.”
According to Mr. Biden, the bottom line is: “Ninety percent of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave,” a figure the White House revised upwards in a corrected transcript released late in Tuesday afternoon to “Ninety-eight percent.”
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, Mr. Biden is wrong. Whether the number of Americans who wanted to leave left behind is ten percent or two, anything short of zero is not good enough.
The steps to remove the U.S. military presence from Afghanistan were taken according to a timetable we can presume began back in April when, as Mr. Biden said in his remarks, “I made the decision to end this war.”
By his own admission, the president and his national security team had more than four months to plan the evacuation of U.S. personnel from Afghanistan. That planning should have included presumably foreseeable contingencies like the collapse of the Afghan government and the failure of the Afghan military to fight as the Taliban once again took control of crucial provinces in critical parts of the country.
There’s no sign any of this was considered. Instead, the U.S. military abandoned Bagram Air Force Base in the middle of the night – much to the surprise of our allies in the country – as the Taliban moved closer and closer to Kabul.
Now, thanks to the Biden administration’s incompetence, Americans have been stranded behind what we must presume are enemy lines. Human lives are at stake, American lives the president it seems would just as soon we forget about.
If ever there was a case for congressional hearings, this is it. There’s no need to make this political. However, the people who’ve held the purse strings on Afghanistan for nearly 20 years need to know how this debacle came about. America is looking to the leadership of Congress to safeguard the interests of the nation’s future warfighters and their families. In the meantime, President Biden can talk all he wants about the remarkable accomplishments of the diplomatic, military, and intelligence personnel who oversaw what he called “one of the biggest airlifts in history.” It was a heroic effort. No one wants to take away from that. But the people of this country also want to know how the as many of two hundred people Mr. Biden himself says wanted to leave got left behind and how he plans on getting them out.