Don’t Excuse Biden for His Botched Afghanistan Withdrawal
President Joe Biden on Monday did something unexpected for a U.S. executive: In a press conference, he stuck by his promise to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. It’s a speech that drew plaudits from anti-war advocates and scorn from the hawks. Yet in our hyper-polarized political landscape, we sometimes forget there’s room for more than two camps, and that applies here: It is possible to champion our troop removal while criticizing the way it was done. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Biden’s address made the case against nation building and regime change wars. Though the optics are messy, his decision to pull troops was the right one, he said. The speech took several pages from the anti-war playbook—rare rhetoric in the context of recent U.S. presidents, even as the war on terror has lost support. More than two-thirds of Americans support an end to the war in Afghanistan. Biden was confident, assured, and full of humility, wrote Reason‘s Eric Boehm.
But the president failed to fully grapple with the execution, which, most notably, has seen thousands of Afghans stranded after they risked their lives to help the U.S. win an unwinnable war.
He did mention it, however briefly. “I know there are concerns about why we did not begin evacuating civilians sooner,” he said yesterday. “Part of the answer is some of the Afghans did not want to leave earlier, still hopeful for their country. Part of it is because the Afghan government and its supporters discouraged us from organizing a mass exodus to avoid triggering, as they said, a crisis of confidence.”
That sounds fair enough: The situation is undoubtedly more complex than meets the eye. But it stops far short of explaining why, for example, 18,000 special immigrant visa (SIV) applications were languishing in a web of red tape far before the withdrawal began. That program was created by Congress to give an immigration pathway to Afghans—those who translated for U.S. soldiers and filled other critical roles in service to the Americans—knowing that they did so at risk of Taliban reprisal.
The result has been nauseating. Videos show a besieged airport in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, where people have been falling from the sky after trying to hold on to planes as they took flight. Afghans who helped the U.S. are now under threat of near-certain death at the hands of the Taliban. Some say the militant group is going door to door looking for traitors to the regime, and reports are already surfacing of public executions just days after the group cemented its
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