As the first flight evacuating over 200 Afghans who worked with Americans in Afghanistan touched down at Dulles Airport in Virginia this past week, I couldn’t find much news to support the assurances from the Biden administration that this U. S. withdrawal from an “endless war”, precipitated by President Trump and sustained by President Biden, won’t be another “Saigon” catastrophe. A couple of weeks ago, the President rejected such concerns, saying “The Taliban is not the North Vietnamese Army; there’s going to be no circumstance where you’ll see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States from Afghanistan”. Let’s hope and pray, but the signs are not good.
Probably of most concern is that, even faster than our forces are withdrawing, the Taliban are advancing to fill the void at a much faster pace than the administration anticipated, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged that “reports of atrocities committed by the Taliban in areas that it’s taken over are deeply troubling”. It is not as though the military didn’t warn the administration that this would happen and, in fact, the U. S. has now resumed bombing in certain areas to respond. Again, Biden says not to worry because we can hit emerging terrorist targets from “over the horizon”, whatever that means, a strategy that military experts such as former national security advisor H. R. McMaster reject in favor of the necessity of maintaining close air support assets in place. And without this ongoing support of Afghan forces, the Taliban will be in Kabul in short order. They already threaten half of the country’s provincial capitals.
This withdrawal is popular right now, particularly with the progressives and the “end forever wars”/Rand Paul/Tucker Carlson wing of the Republican Party, but if Biden doesn’t significantly alter his withdrawal plan and Kabul falls, he will have a disaster on his hands. He once said he wanted to pull our troops out because there was no reasonable expectation of a different outcome, but the outcome that is looking more likely is a quick takeover of the country by the Taliban–not good for him politically, but much worse, not good for the credibility and fidelity of U. S. leadership in the world among our allies and adversaries alike.