American presidents before Joe Biden have wanted to get out of Afghanistan.
A majority of Americans as well as this editorial board have concluded it was the proper course of action.
We also believe most Americans, like us, are deeply disturbed, distressed and embarrassed by the Biden administration’s incompetent execution of this withdrawal, which has placed Americans trapped in the country at risk and Afghans who worked with our troops rightfully fearing for their lives.
Biden owns the debacle 100%, but after saying he took responsibility, our president proceeded to place the blame on the Afghan army, Donald Trump and others.
Blaming his predecessor abounds with irony. On his first week (even first day in office), our president busied himself overturning Trump policies with reckless abandon. Now he would have you believe he had to follow Trump’s decision to withdraw to the letter.
Harsh reality indicates that a president who sold himself as a seasoned foreign policy expert either had no contingency plan in place for a worst-case scenario or he simply chose to ignore it.
A front page headline in the Aug. 18 Wall Street Journal read “Biden Knew Risks of a Hasty Withdrawal.” The story indicated that both diplomats and top generals had warned Biden against this.
Last week, we learned of a classified cable signed by two dozen state department personnel at our Kabul embassy that was sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken in July. It warned of the collapse of the Afghan government. It also offered a recommendation to speed up evacuations.
The chaos and terror we now witness daily on television, as American civilians and Afghan allies struggle to get to safety, is the legacy Biden owns after disregarding this advice.
Where does our nation stand at this point in time?
While this self-inflicted disaster has done immeasurable harm to our nation’s reputation around the world and could be the topic for another editorial, we prefer now to focus on the plight of thousands of Americans and Afghan allies trapped behind enemy lines who desperately want to reach the Kabul airport.
The Biden administration plan so far seems to be to put our trust in Taliban assurances that those we want to evacuate can do so. Seriously? To date this has worked out less than splendidly for Americans and for our Afghan allies. On a recent day, stranded Americans were warned it was not safe to attempt to reach the airport.
Now we learn that the Taliban has indicated that if we are not out of the country by Aug. 31 they would consider it a red line. Biden officials said Tuesday the president would stick to that Aug. 31 deadline, which we believe is a mistake.
The time has come for our commander-in-chief to put on his big boy pants. He needs to remind the Taliban in no uncertain terms that they can make that withdrawal date happen by removing any barrier preventing Americans and our Afghan friends from reaching the airport. Absent that cooperation, they should be told we will remain in their country until that happens. This message should be reinforced by the arrival of whatever additional number of U.S. troops into the Kabul area is necessary to underscore the message we mean business. Taliban leaders also need to be told they will be held personally responsible for the death of even a single American.
The United States has the proven ability to bring retribution to those who harm our citizens. Taliban leadership should weigh carefully the fate of Osama bin Laden, who they once harbored.
Finally, we need to work simultaneously to secure and evacuate U.S. citizens while also assuring safe passage for all those Afghans who were interpreters, intelligence providers or otherwise worked to help our troops keep our country safe from another 9/11.
They are marked for death by the Taliban and because promises of safety were made, our country is honor bound to keep that commitment. Indeed the French ambassador to the United States recently reminded Americans of our “moral obligation” to help those who risked their lives to help us.
These individuals must not be just left to their fate. America and Americans are better than that. We pray we will be able to say the same thing for this administration as this story unfolds in the days ahead.