Underestimating the enemy: Why is Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal so grossly wrong


On July 8, Joe Biden walked into the East Room of the White House and confidently announced the latest news about the withdrawal of US troops. Afghanistan.

A few days ago, the US military had left Bagram Air Force Base, which was the center of operations during this two-year conflict. The drawdown “is proceeding in a safe and orderly manner.” Most importantly, no army is “lost.”

Biden said that compared with the Taliban, the Afghan army is “well-trained, better equipped, and more capable of combat.” It is “very unlikely” that the Taliban will eventually “rule everything and own the entire country.”

On Thursday, Biden returned to the East Room with each of these hypotheses turned into ashes, and the White House is facing the biggest crisis since the president’s inauguration in January.

13 U.S. soldiers killed in an attack Terrorist attacks Outside Kabul Airport, as they tried to manage the chaotic evacuation of thousands of civilians from the city occupied by the Taliban.

Biden said it was a “difficult” day, and his tone was more gloomy than seven weeks ago. The task that he downplayed back then is now “extremely dangerous.” On Friday, the White House said it was preparing for another terrorist attack.

Even if the U.S. withdraws as planned before Tuesday – it has hosted the evacuation of more than 100,000 civilians through a huge airlift from Kabul Airport to the present for two weeks – the chaos and bloodshed of the past few days may leave an indelible stain. Biden’s presidency.

The most fundamental mistake made by the President of the United States and his national security team (including military and intelligence officials) is to underestimate the ability of the Taliban to quickly conquer the country.Islamic Organization Lightning forward Subverted the government’s methodical exit plan.

Richard Fontaine of the Center for New American Security, a Washington think tank, said: “The key miscalculation is the assumption that the United States will have enough time.”

After the US military left in July, a member of the Afghan security forces walked on the huge Bagram Air Base. Critics believe that the decision to leave the base was a tactical error © AP

Fontaine said the government assumes that the Afghan army, trained and armed by the United States, “will stop the Taliban for a period of time,” giving them space to apply for visas for Afghans before they flee the country. It also plans to “deliver troops” instead of deploying reinforcements to dispatch panicked airlifts.

“all of these [assumptions were] It turns out to be wrong, and they proved to be wrong in a very short time,” Fontaine added. “They have difficulty reacting to rapidly changing events. “

It was not until mid-August that Taliban forces began to take action that the White House realized the seriousness of the situation in Afghanistan. take over A series of provincial capital cities. It was at that time that the takeover of Kabul was considered a real threat.

At the time, Biden was still planning a two-week vacation, splitting his time between his Camp David resort in Maryland and his two homes in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach in Delaware. But when the White House realized that its exit was far more turbulent than expected, the president revised his schedule.

On August 16, when the world was attracted by the pictures of Afghans clutching the exterior of a military plane taking off from Kabul Airport, Biden returned from Camp David to the White House to speak to the country. He acknowledged that things “really unfolded faster than we expected” and blamed the situation on the lack of willingness of Afghan political leaders and their military to fight for the country.

On August 18, Biden returned to the White House from Camp David, where he has stayed since. © AP

After returning to Camp David briefly, Biden returned to the White House the next day and has remained there ever since.this Crazy evacuation Because many American citizens and Afghans who have helped the Allies have already started. Biden promised: “Our current military mission is short in time and limited in scope. The focus is on the goal: to make our people and our allies safe as soon as possible.”

As the withdrawal turned into a crisis, critics pointed out that there were errors in the execution of the withdrawal. Some, including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, condemned the decision to leave Bagram, which forced the military to rely entirely on Kabul Airport for evacuation.

Defenders of the president’s practice say that Bagram is far from Kabul and the terrain is more sinister, making it difficult for people fleeing the country to enter, and most of them live in the capital.

Biden insisted on Thursday that he followed the generals’ advice. “They concluded that the military believed that Bagram did not have much added value and it would be wiser to focus on Kabul, so I followed this advice,” he said.

Allies of the United States, especially those in Europe, are shocked by what is happening and have already Press down The Biden administration waived the August 31 deadline and extended its existence to allow more time for evacuation.

But according to people familiar with the matter, Biden refused any extension, worrying that every day would bring new risks to the US military.

“My understanding is that the United States actually has very little contact with its European allies,” said Daniel Byman, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “The United States has made a series of decisions instead of consulting allies, even though they have sacrificed their own people’s lives for years.”

Byman added: “Not surprisingly, they are not satisfied with it.”

Although television screens around the world are filled with dramatic scenes of desperate Afghans trying to escape the country, officials from the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department believe that their efforts to expand the evacuation scale are getting better and better.

More and more people take off from Kabul Airport every day. As of Friday, there were more than 109,200 people, including at least 5,000 American citizens. American helicopters and special forces broke into the airport many times to rescue civilians.

Biden’s national security adviser Jack Sullivan told reporters on Monday: “Six countries on four continents are contributing to this effort. This is one of the largest airlifts in history.”

Sullivan, who was pale and exhausted, said that the airlift was “a large-scale military, diplomatic, security and humanitarian undertaking” and “proved the strength and purpose of the United States and its allies.”

Biden’s national security adviser Jack Sullivan said this week that the airlift “proved the strength and purpose of the United States and our allies” © Bloomberg

But as a week passed, the sense of crisis within the White House began to intensify. Biden huddled with his senior national security adviser in the situation room every morning. As officials were unable to accurately describe the rapidly changing situation, the press conference was cancelled or rescheduled. On Tuesday, the President was expected to deliver a speech at noon, only to deliver a speech nearly five hours later.

The Taliban’s occupation of Afghanistan means that Biden now has to rely on Islamic organizations to ensure the safe passage of Afghans and foreign nationals who leave in a hurry and prevent attacks. Isis-K terrorist.

Biden sent CIA Director Bill Burns to visit Kabul secretly to meet with the Taliban, and US officials admitted that they were in active contact with the country’s new ruler.

“Whether we like it or not, the Taliban are in control,” U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Brinken said on Wednesday. “The important thing is to work with them and work hard to promote and ensure that all those who want to leave leave.”

But by Thursday, hopes that the Taliban could bring some order to the chaotic evacuation were dashed.although Multiple warnings With news from US, British and NATO officials about the imminent threat at the entrance of Kabul Airport, an Isis-K suicide bomber was able to escape the Taliban checkpoint.

The explosion caused a massacre to people seeking to escape from the country and shattered Biden’s hope that under his watch, no troops in Afghanistan would be killed.

When the mission ends next week, politicians in Congress will blame the government for many of the mistakes. But according to Fontaine, as the dust settled, the biggest mistake was still underestimating the enemy.

He said: “The original plan was obviously to be excluded with the conquest of the Taliban.”


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