In July, when Joe Biden announced that he would be pulling the U.S. completely out of Afghanistan, he said: “The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”
Biden isn’t bright. He never has been. But is he stupid enough to have believed it unlikely that the Taliban would, in short order, overrun Afghanistan and seize control of the whole country?
That’s just what the Taliban is now doing, as anyone with an ounce of sense would have expected, not deemed “highly unlikely.” The Washington Post reports:
Senior Afghan officials and hundreds of Afghan government forces in the country’s west and south surrendered to the Taliban on Friday after the militants overran three key cities, inching the country closer to collapse in the final days of the U.S. withdrawal. . . .
The Taliban’s advance across the nation’s south on Friday, staggering in speed and scale, leaves the insurgents holding half of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals and controlling roughly two-thirds of the country. . . .
In Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, government control has shrunk to the local airport and adjoining military base. Sayed Ahmad Seylab, a provincial council member, said Afghan forces and officials retreated from the main government compound to “avoid civilian casualties and the destruction of Kandahar city. . . .
Now all eyes are on Kabul, as the militants gradually close in on the capital. Its advances are heightening concern that Afghanistan’s government will largely collapse, leaving the city an island surrounded by Taliban-controlled territory. A new U.S. intelligence assessment has indicated Kabul could be overrun within 30 to 90 days.
I’d be inclined to take the “under.” As Bill Roggio points out:
In 8 days, the Taliban took control of 16 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces and 18 of its provincial capitals. With the collapse of Ghazni and Logar, the path to Kabul is open.
Barack Obama didn’t want the U.S. to be in Afghanistan. If anything, Donald Trump wanted us to be there even less.
But both presidents had enough sense to maintain our presence — for eight years in Obama’s case and for four in Trump’s. They did so because they understood that, in all likelihood, our withdrawal would mean a total Taliban takeover of the country, a bloodbath of anyone who had supported us in that country, a national humiliation for America, and a return to power of the two terrorist groups responsible for 9/1l.
It’s possible that, had Trump been reelected, he would have accepted these consequences and pulled the U.S. out of Afghanistan entirely. But I take Trump’s “American greatness” rhetoric seriously enough to believe he would not have done so.
Great nations don’t betray entire populations or the sacrifices of their own servicemen. They don’t cede total victory to those who attack our homeland and accept the risk that, back in power, they will sponsor attacks against us again. They don’t countenance the humiliation of scampering out of a country one step ahead, at most, of a primitive enemy it first defeated and then held at bay for nearly two decades.
Trump did indulge in lazy talk about “endless wars.” He thereby elided the facts that our presence in Afghanistan, though sufficient to protect large portions of the country and prevent the Taliban’s return to power, was small — around 3,500 troops — and that the loss of American life due to combat was limited to around 10 deaths per year.
This is far from the image the phrase “endless war” conjures up. It’s closer to “endless stationing of troops,” as we have done in South Korea and Europe for decades.
If the U.S. isn’t willing to pay that price for the benefits our presence in Afghanistan conferred, or even just to avoid national humiliation, talk of “American greatness” is a bad joke. I like to think that Trump took his signature slogan a little more seriously than that.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden is making our humiliation even worse than it had to be. He and his team prattle on about how, if the Taliban wants to avoid being a pariah, it will behave itself when it wins. Again I ask: Is Biden stupid enough to think these words have any influence with the Taliban?
The New York Times reports that American negotiators “are trying to extract assurances from the Taliban that they will not attack the U.S. Embassy in Kabul if the extremist group takes over the country’s government and ever wants to receive foreign aid.” In other words, America is trying to bribe Taliban leaders into protecting Americans.
It’s not clear to me that the Taliban needs much foreign aid to operate the kind of crude, tenth-century style caliphate it ran before we toppled it and might well have in mind this time around. In any case, if the Taliban wants foreign aid, America’s enemies, especially Russia, China and Iran, will be happy to supply it.
It’s the least they can do for a force that has humiliated their enemy, or rather caused that enemy to humiliate itself.