It was the most contemptible speech by a U.S. president in modern times — a speech that shames America and leaves its global reputation in the dirt. …
His abject surrender to the Taliban was dressed up as political reality and common sense. His scuttle from Kabul, still ongoing, was depicted as geopolitical wisdom and a refocusing of U.S. priorities.
Any mistakes or problems were the fault of others, from Trump to the Afghan army.
But make no mistake: the person overwhelmingly responsible for the appalling scenes currently unfolding on our TV screens is the man sitting in the Oval Office.
The fall of Kabul and the return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan is the most humiliating foreign policy disaster for America since the end of World War II.
It combines the cack-handedness of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, when President Kennedy’s attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro with a CIA-backed invasion force of Cuban rebels ended in farce and global embarrassment; and the devastating blow to U.S. prestige worldwide that followed the fall of Saigon in 1975, from which it took America a generation to recover. …
Perhaps the most egregious bit of Biden’s speech was the way he framed the choice before him: either America cut and run (of course, he didn’t use these words but that’s what’s happening); or there had to be yet another massive U.S. military build-up which could see America in Afghanistan for another 20 years.
Biden put it that way because he knows there is no appetite among U.S. voters for further, deeper involvement.
‘How many more generations of daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghanistan’s civil war when Afghan troops will not?’ he asked, knowing full well that the answer would be a resounding: ‘None!’
But his binary choice was as deceptive as it was cynical.
There was a third way — largely a continuation of an enhanced status quo.
For some time now, a small number of U.S. troops — around 2,500 — and their allies have worked with the Afghan military to contain the Taliban, with some success. The Afghans have done most of the fighting and there hasn’t been a U.S. casualty on the battlefield for 18 months. That’s right, not a single American body bag out of Afghanistan since February 2020. …
He claimed America could not occupy Afghanistan for ever. But the U.S. did not occupy Afghanistan. It merely had a small but vital military presence there. It no more occupied Afghanistan than it does South Korea or Japan or Italy or Spain, countries where it also has an important military presence. …
The Afghan military has borne the brunt of the action, suffering 45,000 fatalities in recent years (66,000 since 2001). It was unbecoming of President Biden to demean a foreign army which has incurred such a death toll in defence of its country while carrying out U.S. policy. …
So hypocritical — or did he just wise up and change his mind?
He claimed the U.S. was in Afghanistan only on a counter-terrorist mission, not for nation-building, implying he had no time for that. Yet, in 2001, as the U.S. intervention was under way, he attacked Republican resistance to nation-building and looked forward to a ‘relatively stable government in Afghanistan . . . which represents the ethnic make-up of the country and provides the foundation for future reconstruction of that country’. In other words, nation-building.
Two years later, he said: ‘The alternative to nation-building is chaos, a chaos that churns out bloodthirsty warlords, drug-traffickers and terrorists.’
The fact is, the counter-terrorism strategy of the U.S. and its allies has been a success. Afghanistan has not been a base for international terrorism for 20 years. And, in the process, some very worthwhile building of a civil society has been achieved. In 2001, before the Taliban fell and Al-Qaeda fled, there were one million pupils in Afghanistan, every one of them male. Today there are 9.5 million — and 40 per cent are female. …
In 2010, he told Richard Holbrooke, President Obama’s special representative for Afghanistan, that the U.S. had to leave, regardless of the consequences for women.
Holbrooke records in his diary that, when confronted with America’s obligations to ordinary Afghans, he replied: ‘F*** that. We don’t have to worry about that. We did it in Vietnam. Nixon and Kissinger got away with it.’