September 15, 2021

Biden's Failure in Afghanistan


  • President Biden’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan left American citizens and allies behind while emboldening our enemies, diminishing our counterterrorism capabilities, and damaging trust with our allies around the globe.
  • The administration has sought to blame the Afghans and President Trump for a failure that belongs to President Biden.

The Biden administration’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan left behind American citizens and allies to face the wrath of the Taliban. The fiasco will embolden jihadi terrorists. America’s competitors and adversaries have also taken notice; in the past month, China has increased its threatening rhetoric toward Taiwan. Russia and Iran likely look at this botched withdrawal as a sign of America’s waning international influence.

Abandoning our Citizens and Partners

President Joe Biden said on August 18, “if there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay to get them all out.” Our armed forces and diplomatic community undertook a heroic effort to meet that commitment, and tragically 13 service members lost their lives during the president’s hasty retreat while many more were wounded. Despite their efforts, when the last U.S. plane took off from the Kabul airport on August 3o it left behind around 200 U.S. citizens trying to escape, including children. Many of those who were abandoned could not make it to the airport because the Taliban blocked their access.

President Biden’s evacuation also failed thousand Afghans who helped U.S. forces in our fight against terrorists and the Taliban. State Department officials admitted that we did not get the majority of special immigrant visa applicants out of the country. Those visa applicants now face reprisals and targeted killings from the Taliban. Failure to evacuate Afghans could make recruitment of local allies harder in the future, placing a larger burden on U.S. troops.

The administration has yet to provide a clear plan to rescue the remaining American citizens in Afghanistan.

U.S. Weapons in Taliban Hands

The Biden administration also has not given a clear explanation to Congress about how it will account for the U.S. military gear the Taliban seized when it overran Afghan forces. This includes combat vehicles, aircraft, night vision and advance surveillance equipment, and advanced weapons. Taliban soldiers were photographed wearing modern western body armor and night-vision goggles, and carrying M4 carbines. Some observers believe these weapons will likely find their way into the hands of al-Qaida and other terrorists. The administration had previously taken the threat posed by these advanced products so seriously that the Justice Department recently arrested two Americans for allegedly trying to export night-vision goggles and scopes to Russia, the same technology now in the hands of the Taliban.

U.S. Provided Equipment to Afghanistan

Items Left Behind in Afghanistan

Future of Counterterrorism in the Region

President Biden has suggested that pulling troops out of Afghanistan will not damage our counterterrorism efforts in the region because we maintain an “over the horizon” capacity to launch missiles and drones from far away. This strategy to keep Afghan terror threats at bay is reminiscent of President Clinton’s approach to al-Qaida and the Taliban. In 1998, he ordered missile strikes against al-Qaida in Afghanistan in response to the U.S. embassy bombings the terrorists had carried out in Africa. Beyond the strikes, U.S. and U.N. sanctions targeted the Taliban, attempting to convince them to expel al-Qaida. None of these diplomatic and military options worked, and a few year later al-Qaida perpetrated the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Now we face not only a resurgent al-Qaida, but also the Islamic State in Afghanistan, which attacked U.S. forces at the Kabul airport on August 26.

Military experts in the Biden administration warned that a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan would limit our ability to track terrorist threats in the country. The lack of intelligence in the area is now so dire that the Pentagon is considering consulting with the Taliban on counterterrorism operations.

The president’s strategy likely will increase demands on the U.S. Navy, which will need to maintain a presence nearby in order to launch the strikes that will be a major part of our ability to hit terrorists if we ever get good intelligence on them again. This seems to contradict President Biden’s argument that we need to leave Afghanistan so we can focus on challenges in the Pacific.

Abandoning NATO Allies

The rapid abandonment of Afghanistan has the potential to do incredible damage to U.S. standing with our NATO allies. Directly after the 9/11 attacks on the U.S., NATO invoked Article 5 of the Washington Treaty for the first time in history. With this, our NATO allies and non-NATO partners contributed thousands of troops and billions of dollars toward the efforts in Afghanistan. NATO allies and G-7 leaders pressured President Biden to stay in Kabul longer so the evacuation could be done more safely, but they were forced to leave when the U.S. pulled out on August 3o.

Biden’s Blame Game

The Biden administration has sought to place blame for the fall of Afghanistan on his predecessor. The Trump administration did reach an agreement with the Taliban that called for U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan this year. The agreement tied troop withdrawals to counterterrorism, violence reduction, and negotiation commitments. But President Biden reversed numerous decisions and policies put in place by the previous administration, most notably on immigration, and it changed the planned withdrawal date from May to September. The White House has not convincingly explained why this was the one policy it was powerless to stop.

Regardless of the previous administration’s deal, the Senate approved an amendment in 2019 warning against any precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Afghan Study Group, a bipartisan group commissioned by Congress, warned in February against withdrawing troops based on a timeline and not conditions on the ground. President Biden made this exact mistake when he tied his withdrawal to the calendar, just as President Barack Obama did when he withdrew troops from Iraq in 2011. Allies of the president, like Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, confirmed this change of policy, saying in an April hearing, “I know that the president has made the decision to move from a conditions-based withdrawal to a date certain withdrawal.”

The U.S. pullout left the Afghan security forces without U.S. military and contractor support during combat operations. This was a crushing blow to the morale of the Afghans, who have suffered nearly 60,000 combat deaths since 2001. General Frank McKenzie, the head of Central Command, predicted this in an April hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying, “I am concerned about the ability of the Afghan military to hold on after we leave, the ability of the Afghan Air Force to fly, in particular, after we remove the support for those aircraft.” A July report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction also forecast the collapse, saying, “how the [Afghan National Defense and Security Forces], especially the Afghan Air Force, will function without U.S. soldier and contractor support remains unclear.”

dealing with The devil

The Taliban announced a new government on September 7. This government, comprised of Taliban hard-liners, members of a U.S. designated terror group, and former Guantanamo detainees demonstrates the country’s bleak future and the threat a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan still poses. The new interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is head of the Haqqani network, a designated terror group affiliated with al-Qaida. The State Department is offering a $10 million reward for information leading to his arrest.

Issue Tag: National Security