So much for the “the greatest airlift since Berlin” media strategy. The White House and DNC began pushing back against the mounting criticisms from members of both parties and a wide swath of media by highlighting the numbers of people getting evacuated. The DNC even sent out a statement declaring that Joe Biden had “defied expectations and even exceeded his own administration’s goal” in transporting people out of Kabul.
Thus far, the results of this spin are … not promising. For the second day in a row, the Washington Post’s editorial board lashes Biden for failing to meet the expectations he has set in getting people out of Afghanistan, let alone the expectations everyone else has of any president to protect our citizens at home and abroad:
Mr. Biden, in short, has accepted a series of conditions that seems to make it much more difficult to keep the promises of evacuation he has made or strongly implied. That starts with his top priority, which is, as he put it on Aug. 20, “any American who wants to come home, we will get you home.” Though several thousand U.S. citizens may have been airlifted, the Biden administration itself seems unsure how many are in the country — though the president said Secretary of State Antony Blinken will report that data Wednesday.
To a second group of people, Afghans who worked with the United States and fear being targeted by the Taliban as a result, Mr. Biden has said, “We’re going to do everything — everything that we can to provide safe evacuation.” Even before the Taliban’s new posture, however, the Wall Street Journal had reported that “Afghans who were employed by the embassy or other U.S. agencies in Afghanistan haven’t yet been evacuated in significant numbers.”
The problem with the Biden/DNC spin is that the issue isn’t how many have gotten out as much as it is how many haven’t. Biden and his team precipitated this crisis by pulling the military out of Kabul and Bagram before evacuating US citizens, allies, and Afghan partners. The redeployment to seize the airport was the bare minimum needed to even have an opportunity to get anyone out, but the tallies miss the point.
The New York Times skewers the spin with its own update this morning, emphasis mine:
U.S. and allied planes have flown an additional 19,200 people out of Kabul in the past 24 hours, officials said on Wednesday, as the Biden administration makes substantial inroads into getting American citizens and Afghans who worked for the United States over the last 20 years out of Afghanistan.
But thousands of U.S. citizens are believed to still be in the country, and President Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline for the withdrawal of American troops is rapidly approaching. Tens of thousands of Afghans who qualify for special immigration visas are also waiting to be evacuated. …
Experts estimate that hundreds of thousands of Afghans will be targeted by the Taliban if they stay, including Afghan security forces, government officials, women’s rights advocates and other defenders of democracy. Those Afghans are desperately hoping to join the U.S. military’s airlift before it begins to wind down, potentially as soon as this weekend.
A bare minimum expectation of any president should be “don’t abandon American citizens behind terrorist lines.” And yet here we are with a White House and Democratic Party attempting to use gross numbers to cover up the fact that many Americans can’t make their own way to the airport to reach safety — thanks to the early abandonment of Kabul by US forces, ordered by Joe Biden.
The military is still trying to get to them as best they can with their limited resources, but the effort has apparently hit the point of diminishing returns:
New –> Pentagon discloses another operation — "under the cover of darkness" — by US troops outside Kabul airport to rescue Americans stranded in the city. Spox John Kirby says fewer than 20 Americans were brought back to the compound aboard American military helicopters.
— Andrew deGrandpre (@adegrandpre) August 25, 2021
This kind of operation would require relatively secure rally points in the city, along with safe passage to get to them. The US security posture is so limited in the city it once controlled, however, that we can’t even arrange large-scale rescue operations in Kabul any more.
And it’s getting worse for those looking to get out of Afghanistan, the Wall Street Journal reports, even out in the countryside:
U.S. and NATO forces are sending special rescue teams into Taliban-controlled areas of the city to spirit their citizens into the airport. And countless Afghans who thought the U.S. would protect them after having assisted the U.S.-led coalition forces in the past two decades are now realizing that they will most likely be left behind to face Taliban wrath alone.
Aid organizations have been told by Western governments that evacuation flights won’t continue past Friday, as the U.S. military will need the days remaining until the Aug. 31 deadline to remove its own equipment and troops from Kabul.
Private rescue efforts are facing growing obstacles this week, just as the urgency grows. Chartered planes are flying out of Kabul with hundreds of empty seats. New Taliban checkpoints on the road to Pakistan have made driving out of the country increasingly risky. Confusing bureaucratic hurdles have prevented countless people from leaving Afghanistan.
It’s impossible to spin this as anything else other than a catastrophic failure of leadership, organization, and execution at the highest levels of government. No one’s buying the White House/DNC happy talk, not even their usual allies in the media. Maybe they should stop spinning, and start explaining where the accountability will be applied for this disastrous defeat.