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Biden explains thought process behind Afghan withdrawal

An ‘extraordinary success’ – but any blame should go to Trump

By Ricky Browne

US President Joe Biden yesterday tried to put a positive spin on the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, calling it an “extraordinary success”.

Biden focussed on the evacuation numbers, more than 5,500 Americans evacuated, while trying not to dwell on the number of American citizens and at-risk Afghans who remain.

Biden opened his speech by saying “we completed one of the biggest airlifts in history with more than 120,000 people evacuated to safety.”

“That number is more than double what most experts thought were possible. No nation, no nation has ever done anything like it in all of history” he said.

That is a debatable idea, as some have pointed out that India evacuated more than 170,000 of its nationals from Kuwait before the war there in 1990.

“Only the United States had the capacity and the will and the ability to do it, and we did it today” he said.

The American withdrawal was an ‘extraordinary success’

Biden praised the job of the US military, diplomats and intelligence professionals, who risked their lives to “get American citizens, Afghans who helped us, citizens of our allies and partners and others on board planes and out of the country.”

He criticized the Afghan armed forces for not living up to expectations.

“The assumption was that more than 300,000 Afghan national security forces that we had trained over the past two decades, and equipped, would be a strong adversary in their civil wars with the Taliban. That assumption that the Afghan government would be able to hold on for a period of time beyond military drawdown turned out not to be accurate,” Biden said.

He also blamed the Afghan president for fleeing, creating more turmoil.

“When the Afghan security forces – after two decades of fighting for their country, and losing thousands of their own – did not hold on as long as anyone expected, we were ready when they, the people of Afghanistan, watched their own government collapse, and the president flee, amid the corruption and malfeasance, handing over the country to their enemy, the Taliban and significantly increasing the risk to US personnel and our allies,” Biden said.

He also suggested that any Americans who didn’t leave during the evacuation, didn’t leave because they didn’t want to.

“Since March, we reached out 19 times to Americans in Afghanistan with multiple warnings and offers to help them leave Afghanistan, all the way back as far as March,” he said.

Biden didn’t say how many American citizens remain in total, nor how many at risk Afghans who helped Nato forces remain, such as interpreters. But he did say that as many as 200 American citizens who want to get out have been left behind.

“Now we believe that about 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan with some intention to leave. Most of those who remain are dual citizens, longtime residents, but earlier decided to stay because of their family roots in Afghanistan.”

Even 100 people is not an acceptable number when looking at American history. Its been pointed out that the inability of the Jimmy Carter presidency to rescue 50 Americans who were held as hostages in Iran, caused Carter to be voted out of power in 1980.

Biden met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the White House in June

But Biden states that the vast majority of Americans remaining in Afghanistan don’t want to leave. The idea of being murdered by the Taliban for their nationality doesn’t bother them at all, because they have family members who are Afghan.

“The bottom line: 90 percent of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave, were able to leave. And for those remaining Americans, there is no deadline. We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out. Secretary of State Blinken is leading to continue diplomatic efforts to ensure a safe passage for any American, Afghan partner or foreign national who wants to leave Afghanistan,” Biden said.

Biden then went on to lay blame on former president Trump – without saying his name.

“Let me be clear, leaving August 31 is not due to an arbitrary deadline. It is designed to save American lives. My predecessor, the former president, signed an agreement with the Taliban to remove US troops by May the first, just months after I was inaugurated. It included no requirement that the Taliban work out a cooperative governing arrangement with the Afghan government. Bit it did authorise the release of 5,000 prisoners last year, including some of the Taliban’s top war commanders, among those who just took control of Afghanistan.”

He explained that because of Trump, the choice would be going back to war or withdrawing.

“The previous administration’s agreement said that if we stuck to the May 1 deadline that they had signed on to leave by, the Taliban wouldn’t attack any American forces. But if we stayed, all bets were off,” he said.

So, we were left with a simple decision: either follow through on the commitment made by the last administration and leave Afghanistan, or say we weren’t leaving and commit another tens of thousands more troops. Going back to war: that was the choice, the real choice, between leaving or escalating. I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit,” he said.

People wait to board a military aircraft at Kabul airport

Biden dismissed arguments that evacuations should have started earlier and said: “The bottom line is, there is no evacuation from the end of a war that you can run without the kinds of complexities, challenges, threats we faced, none.”

Biden said that the US mission in Afghanistan was to basically destroy Al Zaieda after the September 11 terrorist attack in 2001. He said that mission was accomplished when the US killed Osama bin Laden (in Pakistan) 10 years ago – and that there was simply no good reason for the US to be there today.

Biden said that America will continue to fight terrorism, even in Afghanistan, but that it doesn’t need ground troops to do that, thanks to the power of drones, which he reffered to as “over-the-horizon capabilities”.

Biden then went on to identify China as America’s biggest threat, along with Russia.

“We’re engaged in a serious competition with China. We’re dealing with the challenges on multiple fronts with Russia. We’re confronted with cyberattacks, and nuclear proliferation. We have to shore up America’s competitiveness to meet these new challenges in the competition for the 21st century,” Biden said.

China and Russia were beneficiaries of the US involvement in Afghanistan, which was another reason to withdraw.

“We can do both: fight terrorism and take on new threats that are here now, and will continue to be here in the future. And there’s nothing China or Russia would rather have, would want more in this competition than the United States to be bogged down another decade in Afghanistan,” Biden said.

What is unclear is if Biden thinks he has made a great decision for America by withdrawing, or if Trump made a great decision by forcing him to do that.

“When I was running for president, I made a commitment to the American people that I would end this war. Today, I’ve honoured that commitment. It was time to be honest with the American people again,”.

“I was not going to extend this forever war” he said.

So was it his idea or Trump’s? Who gets the credit. Who gets the blame? It appears that Biden should be praised for any good in the withdrawal, while any blame should be laid at Trump’s feet.

“I believe this is the right decision, a wise decision and the best decision for America,” Biden concluded.

No questions please

As usual, he walked away from the podium and away from the cameras, not taking any questions.

Biden continued to get no support from Democrat hardhitters on Twitter.

Yesterday, after Biden’s speech, former President Barack Obama tweeted about the hurricane that hit Louisiana.

“Michelle and I are thinking of everyone affected by Hurricane Ida, and we’re grateful to the first responders doing heroic work. Here are some ways to support those in need:” he tweeted with a link from the Obama Foundation on how people can help.

His wife Michelle tweeted something similar about the hurricane and the unfortunate peole who were hit by it.

Bill Clinton has tweeted nothing about Afghanistan, and continued that.

Hillary Clinton has tweeted nothing about Afghanistan either, except a retweet from Biden on August 29.

Nothing either from the House Democrats.

Taliban soldiers now wear American uniforms, carrying American weapons

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democrat congresswoman and firebrand has tweeted nothing about Afghanistan on her own, but retweeted a tweet that seemed to offer her some praise. The tweet from Ryan Grim said, “These vets, who walked the halls of Congress pushing back against what they coined as “forever wars,” deserve a salute today” and carried a story from about Ocasio-Cortez and some other clawmakers signing a pledge to end America’s “forever wars”.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was an exception. She tweeted yesterday that “Today, America and the world observe a milestone of solemnity: the end of the twenty-year war in Afghanistan. I commend @POTUS for his steadfast leadership in ending a forever war. Too many men and women in uniform and their families have had to bear the burden of this conflict.”

But it was reported that Pelosi had also blocked the reading of the names of the 13 US servicemen killed in the suicide bomb in Afghanistan.

Vice President Kamala Harris has tweeted nothing on her own about Afghanistan, though she has retweeted a post from Biden: “There is nothing low-grade, low-risk, or low-cost about any war. It was time to end the war in Afghanistan.”

Basically it seems that all these Democrats want to continue to put as much distance between them and the Afghanistan withdrawal as possible. They can be expected to find other issues to tweet about as soon as possible, to try and put this story in the past.

The hope will be that this story will be a seven-day wonder, with new stories rising to the top. Any other story will be preferable to this one.

That may not be possible if the lives of Americans and Afghan supporters are extinguished by the Taliban.



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