August 16, 2021
While President Joe Biden cowers at Camp David, the Taliban are humiliating America. The retreat from Afghanistan is our worst foreign-policy disaster in a generation. As the Taliban marches into Kabul, they’re murdering civilians, reimposing their vicious Islamist law, and preparing to turn Afghanistan back into a bandit regime. The U.S. embassy has told Americans to shelter in place. Refugees are fleeing to the airport, begging to escape the coming bloodbath. None of this had to happen.
America is the world’s greatest superpower. We ought to act like it. But President Biden and his national-security team have failed to protect even the American embassy in Kabul. They have broken America’s promises to the men and women who long for freedom — especially those thousands of Afghans who served alongside our military and intelligence services. They are turning their backs on the women and children who are desperate for space on the remaining flights out of hell.
Gross incompetence has given the Taliban a terrible opportunity to slaughter our allies. 88,000 of our Afghani allies have applied for visas to get out of the country, but this administration has approved just 1,200 so far. I’ve been among a bipartisan group of senators that has pushed Biden to expedite this process, but to no avail. At this point, it’s not clear how many we’ll be able to get out. Every translator and ally who stood by us is now at risk.
This bloodshed wasn’t just predictable, it was predicted. For months, Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee have warned the Biden administration that this would happen. Now the administration is acting like this is a surprise. It’s shameful, dishonest spin.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been all over cable news pretending this isn’t a disaster. Administration apologists can bleat talking points all they want to, but they can’t drown out the screams of the women Taliban forces are systematically brutalizing.
The administration naively talked about a “diplomatic solution.” The Taliban were never interested, and have broken every agreement they have signed. Just look at recent headlines. Last week alone, 27 children were murdered at the hands of the Taliban. The Taliban executed 22 Afghan commandos as they attempted to peacefully surrender. They’ve made their intentions known — these butchers are bragging about the slaughter online.
The Taliban don’t give a rip about getting invited to the U.N.’s international cocktail party in Brussels. Bromides about the Taliban’s “role in the international community” aren’t going to call them off. The Taliban aren’t going to stop being the Taliban because Jen Psaki scolds them.
America’s retreat is a major propaganda coup for the jihadists. The Taliban will claim to be a “superpower-slayer.” The Taliban helped their allies stage the 9/11 attacks almost exactly 20 years ago, and after our retreat they’ll be able to brag about humiliating us again.
Make no mistake: The Taliban will exploit every image of American retreat. Pictures of desperate Afghans perilously crowded around the unguarded airport in Kabul are painfully reminiscent of images of Saigon — images that cemented communist victory in Vietnam and showed American weakness to the world. Jihadists are flocking to the “hallowed ground” where they have just defeated the “infidels.” Afghanistan will become a sanctuary for terrorist groups all over again.
China and Russia will look to capitalize on Biden’s weakness and incompetence, too. Their message is simple: Why should Ukraine or Taiwan put any faith in the United States after seeing how Washington has abandoned its allies in Afghanistan? America’s enemies are salivating at the thought of taking advantage of the president who surrendered in the War on Terror.
The sad thing is, many in my party are trying to blame-shift as if the last administration didn’t set us on this course. Here’s the ugly truth: Neither party is serious about foreign policy. For a decade now, demagogues have lied to the American people about our mission in Afghanistan. President Trump pioneered the strategy of retreat President Biden is pursuing, to disastrous effect.
The politicians and pundits who make excuses for this shameful retreat will dishonestly claim that it was this or fighting so-called “forever wars.” They pretend that our only choices were a massive occupation or an immediate withdrawal. They ignore the reality on the ground. Their cheap talking points have led to chaos, persecution, and death.
Politicians don’t tell this truth: America didn’t have a nation-building occupation force in Afghanistan. The last time we had 100,000 troops in the country was a decade ago. We’re not waging “endless wars” in Afghanistan any more than we’re waging endless wars in South Korea, Germany, or Japan — or Kosovo, or Honduras, or any number of other nations where we have forward-deployed forces. A relatively small number of troops has successfully supported our Afghan allies by providing the backbone for intelligence and special-operations missions. Americans weren’t building empires or fighting unwinnable battles. We were defending airfields and decapitating terror organizations while keeping a light footprint. Americans have heard of some high-profile goons, such as Qasem Soleimani and Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. But our heroes in Afghanistan have killed a lot more Bin Laden wannabes whose names you don’t know — precisely because we killed them before they could take down a World Trade Center. We fought and won this war in Afghanistan, not on American shores. But you wouldn’t realize that from the isolationist rhetoric surrounding Biden’s choices.
It’s important to recognize the work that our special forces and intelligence operatives did after 9/11. The partnerships they built with our Afghan allies were premised on the idea that America isn’t capable of this kind of betrayal. I’ve had a dozen conversations with American intelligence officers and special operators over the past few weeks, and they’ve told me that they swore to their Afghan recruits that if they fought shoulder-to-shoulder with Americans, we’d protect their wives and children. Those promises are being broken. America is supposed to be better than this. The Biden administration is spitting in the face of all these heroes, but we owe them a debt of gratitude. The work they did mattered, and still matters.
Our troops didn’t lose this war. Politicians chose defeat. We never had to let the Taliban win, but a bipartisan doctrine of weakness has humiliated the world’s greatest superpower and handed Afghanistan to butchers. In the next few weeks, the situation in Afghanistan will get much worse. Americans need to pray for that troubled country. President Biden needs to man up, come out of hiding, and take charge of the mess he created. Secure the airfields and get as many souls out as possible. Time is short.