The cost of the terrible tragedy at Kabul airport

27 August 2021

8:06 AM

27 August 2021

8:06 AM

America’s frantic, confused exit from Afghanistan was a humiliating shambles even before today’s terrorist attack. Now, it is something much worse. It is a deadly tragedy, leaving victims dead and injured and trapping thousands of Americans and friendly Afghans in a lethal environment, where terrorists roam free.

There will be a huge political price to pay for this unfolding disaster, and President Biden will pay it. This deadly fiasco didn’t just happen on his watch. It happened because of his decisions, a series of fundamentally bad ones, taken by the President himself.

Gone are the days when the administration could trot out a press secretary to try and spin away the unfolding catastrophe, Jen Psaki could quibble over whether Americans were ‘stranded’. Now, there are far more pressing questions the President himself must answer. He cannot just turn his back on the press corps and walk away. Those questions are ‘how the hell did this happen?’ and ‘how on earth are you going to safely evacuate the rest of our own people and our friends? How can we prevent this from becoming a hostage crisis?’

Beyond those immediate questions lie larger ones about how to repair America’s standing in the world, now that the world’s greatest military power has been visibly defeated.

The consequences for the Biden presidency are equally grave. Only a month ago, President Biden privately told our Nato allies that Kabul would be stable during our exit. He overrode their entreaties to leave a residual force. Only a month ago, President Biden held a press conference (you know, the kind where he actually answers questions) where he told Americans he expected the friendly Afghan army to perform well against the Taliban and to prevent the terrorists from winning for many months, perhaps years. This was far different from our loss in Vietnam, he said, where Americans lined up on the embassy roof to escape by helicopter. He’s right. It’s different. It’s far worse.

Biden himself overruled the generals who wanted to keep a small residual force in Afghanistan to provide intelligence and air support for the Afghan army. Biden himself decided to execute this withdrawal in the middle of the fighting season, not during the winter lull, when Taliban commanders pull back temporarily to Pakistan. Moreover, we tried to execute the entire withdrawal from a single airport, having abruptly abandoned the major airbase at Bagram, literally in the middle of the night and apparently without arranging for our local partners to replace our troops there. That left the US with only one location to stage its evacuation and provided terrorists a rich target to attack. His perceived weakness and the lack of military resources on the ground invited attacks by our enemies and endangered every American who remained.

The Biden administration will pay a huge price for this slaughter and humiliating defeat. So will our country and our friends abroad.

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