Blinken: Trump left us a deadline for withdrawal on Afghanistan but not a plan

They had seven months to come up with their own plan. More, in fact, since they could have begun gaming out logistics before Biden was sworn in.

And if they had approached the Taliban and negotiated an extension of the withdrawal until after “fighting season” was over, they would have had more still. They would have faced no urgent threat of a Taliban takeover in the winter as the evacuation of Americans and Afghan friendlies played out.

Democrat Brad Sherman used his questioning of Blinken during today’s House hearing to lead him by the nose through an indictment of Trump’s administration for not gift-wrapping a withdrawal plan for the new president. Considering that Biden was unwilling to stick to Trump’s withdrawal deadline of May 1, I don’t know why anyone thinks his team would have stuck to a Trump withdrawal strategy. Particularly since Biden’s aides believe they’re the “adults in the room” and that the Trumpers were hopeless amateurs. Watch, then read on.

Is that so? Trump aides told Breitbart last month that they did make recommendations on withdrawal from Afghanistan to Biden’s team and saw those recommendations predictably dismissed.

Three former senior officials told Breitbart News that the small force of about 800 U.S. troops would have been left in place to continue the counterterrorism mission, but to also provide intelligence and logistical support to the Afghan military and prevent the kind of collapse the world is witnessing now in Afghanistan.

“That was the hope…to be able to do the drone mission and the counterterrorism support, and also advising specifically the Afghan Special Forces who were doing a lot of the [counterterrorism] efforts…And Biden just pulled them out as well,” one former senior defense official said.

Because the Afghan military depended heavily on Americans for intel and equipment maintenance, they were essentially left blind and partially disarmed when Biden went ahead with a rapid drawdown. That made them easy pickings for the Taliban. But Biden had an opportunity in June to avert that outcome, the Wall Street Journal reported recently, when his advisors asked him to reconsider his decision to withdraw from Bagram. The Taliban had already advanced swiftly enough through Afghanistan’s provinces by then that Team Joe realized the Afghan army might need more help defending Kabul than they had expected. Should we keep Bagram for awhile, Biden’s advisors asked him?

We should not, the president replied. He gave the order to abandon ship.

A new intelligence assessment, prepared in mid-June at the request of Gen. Milley, said Kabul could fall six months after the U.S. military left.

That was when Mr. Sullivan at the NSC raised questions about shutting down Bagram, according to U.S. officials. With only two weeks before most of the military was due to leave, the base was in the process of being closed. The Pentagon, which was also cognizant of the significance of the impending move, paused the shutdown for several days so Mr. Biden and his aides could reconsider the timing of closing the base. Keeping it open would delay the Pentagon in carrying out Mr. Biden’s plan to remove the vast majority of American troops.

Working with the administration’s troop limit of 650, military commanders had to choose between keeping open Bagram or the Kabul airport, which was thought ready to handle a large evacuation. Briefed about it, U.S. officials said, Mr. Biden backed the military plan, affirming Bagram’s closing.

Biden wanted out and was prepared to risk the security of Kabul and the safety of Americans and Afghans to make it happen. He had questioned the value of the war in Afghanistan for years and saw the anniversary of 9/11 as a symbolic deadline to keep his campaign pledge to withdraw. That being so, there’s no reason to think that if Team Trump had handed him a blueprint for a protracted drawdown or one that called for a residual force to assist the Afghan army that Biden would have followed it. His goal was to leave ASAP. Even though refugee groups warned him this past spring that his new target date of August 31 for withdrawal wouldn’t be nearly enough time to get everyone out safely.

Which was prophetic. Here was the newsiest bit from Blinken’s testimony today. There may be only a few hundred American citizens left in the country but American permanent residents are a different story:

Coincidentally, the U.S. just announced it’ll be sending $64 million to Afghanistan for humanitarian aid, what I assume is our first of many ransom payments:

That money may be aimed at securing cooperation on more than just repatriating green-card holders. With no intelligence capacity on the ground at the moment, the U.S. is stuck conducting counterterror operations from “over the horizon” via foreign bases. When members of Congress quizzed Biden’s team about that recently, they were reportedly “frustrated” by the cavalier attitude of some Biden staffers about our ability to manage the growing threat without eyes and ears in Afghanistan. The checks flowing to the Taliban will also seek to gain their cooperation on targeting Al Qaeda. Considering how Afghanistan’s new interior minister is, uh, a member of Al Qaeda, I’m not optimistic.

Here’s Republican Brian Mast laying into Blinken at today’s hearing.