Do you remember Democrats calling for President George W. Bush’s impeachment or resignation the day after the September 11 terrorist attack? Neither do I.
What I do remember is the Democrats’ 100% support for the president as he navigated the aftermath of the worst assault on the American homeland, about which we later learned Bush was warned.
Within a month of that awful day, we sent troops into Afghanistan to hunt down the 9/11 mastermind, Osama bin Laden, and take out the Taliban harboring him. The former took another 10 years, but the latter was accomplished almost immediately. The Taliban fled Kabul and literally ran for the hills, where we continued to fight them for 20 more years in the name of nation-building or something.
I agree with the former guy on next to nothing, but he was right about this: the war had to end. So last year, he hastily made a peace deal with the Taliban that was really a “surrender agreement,” according to HR McMaster, the former guy’s ex-national security advisor: we’ll get out by May 2021 and you can do whatever you want if you don’t let Al Qaeda, ISIS or any other murderous thugs operate there. He also told the Afghans to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners.
Surely, the 300,000-strong Afghan security force, well-funded, trained and armed by the U.S. and NATO, could stand up to 75,000 Taliban fighters, it was reasoned, so an orderly departure from Afghanistan over several months was virtually assured.
Except it wasn’t, even after President Joe Biden pushed back the departure to August 31. The Taliban went on a blitzkrieg offensive that saw the forces who were supposed to fight them evaporate. Chaos predictably ensued.
“We defeated ourselves,” said McMaster.
“The problem with Mr. Trump’s Taliban deal wasn’t that the administration turned to diplomacy,” Kori Schake, the director of defense policy at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, wrote in the New York Times. “The problem was that the strongest state in the international order let itself be swindled by a terrorist organization.”
Blaming Biden for this fiasco is as intellectually dishonest as it is politically exploitative for people like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-14) and her fellow traveler Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-11). The day after the horrific suicide bombings at Kabul airport, which took the lives of 13 American troops and some 180 civilians, Greene called for Biden’s impeachment.
Last week, Loudermilk penned an op-ed for the MDJ claiming, “Biden’s reckless and disastrous decision-making gave way for one of the most vicious terrorist organizations to seize control of the capital…,” speciously adding Biden was holed up at Camp David as the catastrophe unfolded.
What the congressman didn’t say is the White House always goes where the president goes. Biden was fully engaged when the Taliban closed in and Loudermilk knows it. Loudermilk also makes no mention of the former guy’s surrender agreement with the Taliban that set the stage for its resurgence.
Yes, there should have been better planning. Was there, for example, any contingency if the Afghan security forces refused to fight, allowing the Taliban to sweep across the country in a matter of weeks? If not, there should have been, but Biden was assured by military and intelligence leaders Afghan forces could hold their own for a year if not longer.
Military doctrine dictates unit cohesion, that is, soldiers in combat fight for the other soldiers next to them. Some Afghans fought, but reportedly, security forces in one area of the country learned a neighboring unit had thrown down its weapons and asked, why should I fight if those guys won’t?
This rolling capitulation rapidly cascaded right up to the moment the Taliban took Kabul with barely a shot fired.
Afghanistan has been a collective failure through four administrations, 10 Congresses, countless generals, intelligence officers, and State Department “experts.” From the get-go, there was never a clear-cut objective nor was there an exit strategy.
Sadly, many Republicans including Loudermilk are dumbing down the facts and it appears they’re rejoicing behind the scenes, believing Biden is mortally wounded politically. They’re also hoping to distract public attention from an unwinnable war they helped facilitate that cost 2,500 American lives and $2 trillion.
In the wake of 9/11, we came together as a nation, understanding our shared values would see us through that unimaginable tragedy. Democrats didn’t celebrate as the smoke rose from Ground Zero. They backed President Bush four square. The perverse reaction to the events in Kabul by Republicans and right-wing commentators only demonstrates how divided our nation has become since 2001.
This misbegotten war is over, thank God. Let’s accept that we lost it and that there’s plenty of blame to go around. Then let us learn from the defeat so we don’t allow our elected leaders to make the same mistakes again.