Seems to me the “deal” we’ve been offered is that we get to evacuate as many Americans as we can by August 31 and in return we bite our lips and betray the Afghans who assisted us, who are now being blocked from the airport by the Taliban.
We’ve suffered worse national humiliations but rarely have we seemed so impotent. This isn’t the Soviet army with whom we’re ducking a confrontation. It’s a group of jihadi primitives with no air power.
They call the tune. The best-case scenario for the United States now is that we leave when they say so, with every American out and no loss of life, and tens of thousands of allied Afghans abandoned to their fates. We’re going to have to abandon people who helped us. Lots of them.
Biden’s taking that deal:
President Joe Biden has decided not to extend his Aug. 31 deadline for completing the U.S.-led evacuation of Americans and Afghan allies from Afghanistan, an administration official said Tuesday.
Biden made the decision after consultation with his national security team. Weighing the risks of keeping forces on the ground beyond the deadline, he opted to complete the mission by next Tuesday, which was the deadline he set well before the Taliban completed its takeover of Afghanistan on Aug. 15.
Biden asked his national security team to create contingency plans in case a situation arose for which the deadline needed to be extended slightly, the official said.
The AP notes that Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at this morning’s briefing that he’s confident we can get all Americans out by next week “but was less specific about completing the evacuation of all at-risk Afghans.”
It’s not just Americans and Afghan allies who are trapped in Afghanistan. Foreign nationals are too and are looking for a way out. “The massive logistical undertaking by the American military — which took control of part of Kabul’s international airport, including its air traffic control, in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover — has allowed other countries to evacuate their citizens,” CNN notes. “If the US withdraws, it’s unclear whether civilians from any country would still be able to leave.” Meeting the Taliban’s deadline potentially means leaving behind not just Afghan “friendlies” but turning stranded Americans and Europeans into Taliban hostages.
In fact, if I’m reading this tweet correctly, the Pentagon may be trusting the Taliban to continue to evacuate our citizens even after we’re gone. They’re our partners in the withdrawal process now, it seems:
Pentagon says number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will go to 'zero' at Aug. 31 deadline. Unclear who will protect last Americans leaving. 'There's no question,' Taliban will help complete evacuation, Kirby says. Months ago, plan was to keep 650 U.S. troops at U.S. Embassy Kabul.
— Lucas Tomlinson (@LucasFoxNews) August 24, 2021
We may be a week away from watching the United States military retreat on the enemy’s say-so knowing full well that Americans are trapped behind enemy lines.
Politicians from both parties are irate at the thought. “We should laugh at them when they say, ‘Oh well that’s a red line for us [and] you need to be out by August 31.’ No. And if you get in our way when we are extracting Americans, we will kill you. That is the only message that Biden should be delivering to the Taliban,” said Dan Crenshaw to Politico. Ben Sasse was similarly emphatic:
“Damn the deadline. The American people are not going to surrender our fellow citizens to the Taliban. Americans want us to stay until we get our people out, and so do our allies. The Biden Administration needs to cut the Stockholm syndrome. There’s absolutely no reason to trust the Taliban — they’re violently blocking Americans and our Afghan partners from reaching the airport. If President Biden accepts the Taliban’s terms he’ll be the one holding the shovel in Afghanistan’s ‘graveyard of empires.’ Mr. President, tell the Taliban we’re getting our people out however long it takes, and that we’re perfectly willing to spill Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS blood to do it.”
Centrist House Dems Jason Crow and Elissa Slotkin chimed in too:
Rep. Jason Crow, coming out of the briefing, says he holds firm in his belief that “it is not possible for us to evacuate all American citizens and our Afghan partners and their families by the end of the month.”
“The deadline must be extended,” he says. https://t.co/Xt4CatjEZw
— Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) August 24, 2021
After 20 years at war, our actions over the next week will leave the most lasting impression around the world – and I want the U.S. to be known as a nation that takes risks for those who risk everything for us. 9/9
— Rep. Elissa Slotkin (@RepSlotkin) August 23, 2021
What do they have in mind for the scenario where we tell the Taliban “we’re staying another week” and they say no and start firing mortars at the airport runway to prevent planes from landing? Who’s resupplying the American troops who’d suddenly be stranded at the airport and surrounded on all sides? If they fight their way out, where are they supposed to go? How many casualties should we be willing to take? How will we repair the runway so that flights can resume? What happens to Americans stranded in Kabul once hostilities have resumed between the two sides and the jihadis start looking for them?
Saying “we should tell them we’re staying” is an understandable emotional reaction in light of the wound to national honor. But an actual plan requires explaining how a hot war breaking out at the airport doesn’t make things worse.
Seems to me the Taliban threat to block Afghans from the airport and stick fast to the August 31 deadline might be nothing more than a request for a bribe. Afghanistan’s central bank holds some $10 billion in assets outside the country, beyond the group’s grasp. They might be demanding behind the scenes that Biden grease their palms by releasing those funds to them. Are we willing to pay a ransom for stranded Afghan “friendlies,” knowing that some of that money will be diverted to terrorist groups? It’d be a perfectly surreal ending to our aimless war on terror.
Let’s end on a positive note.
Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor: "I'm pleased to report our best departure results since evacuation operations began have happened in the last 24 hours."
— CSPAN (@cspan) August 24, 2021
Update: Hoo boy. This wouldn’t be the first time lately that Biden has blindsided our allies.
WOW: Fox reporting that the G7 had an agreement in place to tell the Taliban the G7 nations would stay in #Afghanistan past August 31, and now Joe Biden has undercut our allies again. pic.twitter.com/tXGoPmA3ln
— John Cooper (@thejcoop) August 24, 2021