Some men left behind: Last U.S. troops leave Kabul, ending America's 20-year war -- before getting all Americans out

“I’m here to announce the completion of our mission in Afghanistan,” said Centcom chief Gen. Frank McKenzie at the start of this afternoon’s briefing.

With due respect, the mission wasn’t to have the Taliban back in control of Afghanistan on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and now in possession of an army-sized arsenal of U.S. munitions and materiel. We failed in our mission.

Granted, for most of the war it wasn’t clear what the mission even was. But it certainly wasn’t that.

Anyway, our president made us a promise. August 19:

That promise was not kept. When McKenzie announced that the last remaining American personnel at Karzai airport have departed, bringing an end to the war in Afghanistan, he also acknowledged that American citizens are still on the ground, at the Taliban’s mercy.

The latest number from the State Department is that fewer than 250 U.S. citizens remain but that’s as close as they’ll get to offering a precise number. (Conveniently, they’re not mentioning how many green-card holders were left.) Do we know who those 250 are? Do we know where they were? If so, did we make any attempt to evacuate them on the last flights out? McKenzie was asked about that and said that efforts continued up until 12 hours before departure but “none of them made it to the airport.”

Did they not make it to the airport because the Taliban turned them away or did they not try? Was there any form of transport available to American troops to leave the airport and retrieve people from around Kabul?

Or did the Pentagon fear that if U.S. soldiers ventured out at the eleventh hour, they might be taken prisoner and we’d end up with an even more urgent hostage crisis than the one that’s now upon us? McKenzie is calling the ransom process to come a “diplomatic sequel” to the American military presence, which is sporting of him.

At least desperate Afghans didn’t overrun the airport walls and obstruct the final flights from leaving. McKenzie gave credit to “our Afghan partners,” as he’s reportedly taken to calling them in private conversation, for help with that:

Biden issued a statement this afternoon promising that he’ll address the country tomorrow about why we didn’t stay put until every American was gone — while also preemptively passing the buck to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for that decision:

If we stayed past the deadline, there may well have been a hot war at the airport with no obvious way for a small U.S. force to win it and certainly no way to evacuate the remaining Americans in Afghanistan while it was ongoing. Team Biden made the calculation that the Taliban probably won’t harm the remaining Americans in the country since doing so would necessitate a U.S. military reprisal and would end any Taliban chances of gaining international legitimacy from western powers. I think the new regime wants to be done with foreign enemies and to concentrate on domestic ones:

The Americans left in Kabul will probably get out in exchange for valuable consideration. The Afghan friendlies who are left won’t be as lucky. Take a few minutes to read this account of another private operation organized in the U.S. a la the “Pineapple Express” that coordinated to evacuate Afghan allies over the past few weeks, reportedly bringing some *5,000* to safety.

The self-named Commercial Task Force dispatched former commandos to Kabul to retrieve evacuees, said Mr. Van Meter, president of New Standard Holdings, a private-equity company, and others affiliated with the group. It made a deal with the United Arab Emirates that allowed an airlift to carry Afghans from Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport to temporary shelter in Abu Dhabi where many of the 5,000 evacuees await permission to travel to countries willing to give them permanent refuge…

Jim Linder, a retired major general, former commander of special-operations units in Afghanistan and part of Mr. Van Meter’s group, said former Afghan comrades who felt abandoned by the U.S. government appealed to him for help. “This is not who we are as a people,” he said. He is president of Tenax Aerospace, a Madison, Miss., company that provides governments with special-mission reconnaissance and other aircraft, and his connections helped the group charter planes for rescue flights.

Evidently it is who we are as a people, at least as embodied by our government. A choice Biden tweet from two years ago:

Despite the best efforts of groups like Commercial Task Force and the U.S. military, which managed to process 120,000 people for evacuation before the final plane left, many Afghans who aided our war effort will be killed. I doubt the Taliban will even agree to ransom some of them, wanting to make an example of any army officers who are left in the country, at least.

I’ll leave you with this blistering statement from Ben Sasse, who spent the last two weeks urging Biden not to leave anyone behind. “May history never forget this cowardice.”