Nothing to see here! Jen Rubin defends the Biden administration's handling of Afghanistan

The Washington Post’s Jen Rubin has been on the Biden bandwagon for a long time and she’s not going to turn critical now just because of a little foreign policy disaster. Today she published a piece headlined “A primer on false narratives about Afghanistan” which really could have been called “Jen Rubin ignores reality about Afghanistan.” The bulk of the piece is 9 paragraphs responding to different “false narratives.” But they aren’t really narratives so much as direct observations and even Rubin admits some of them may not be false. Let’s start at the beginning:


We abandoned the Afghans. We failed to get people out. False. The airport in Kabul is up and running flights to evacuate U.S. citizens, third-party nationals, interpreters and other Afghan partners. The military predicted that within 24 hours, we would be flying out 5,000 to 9,000 people per day. The administration has been in “communication” with Taliban commanders to allow people safe passage to the airport. The administration will be judged on whether it completes its mission.

The fact that we haven’t left the Afghans or failed to get Americans out yet, doesn’t change the fact that poor planning resulted in a situation where the US can’t guarantee the safety of anyone unless they already happen to be at Kabul airport. As others pointed out, Rubin doesn’t seem to be reading reports about the situation at the airport from her own paper:

Maybe she would prefer to watch CNN? Here’s their reporter on the ground in Kabul saying “This was mayhem. This was nuts.”


This situation is a clusterf**k and if we somehow manage to get everyone out that doesn’t prove this was handled well.

Moving on, Rubin also offers this counter-factual argument about what might have happened if we’d started removing American citizens and Afghan translators out sooner:

We should have moved people out earlier. The administration concedes this is a valid question. However, had it begun to evacuate thousands a few weeks ago, the panic could well have descended then.

This isn’t just a “valid question” it’s a glaringly obvious failure. When you pull 2,500 troops out and then send 7,000 troops in because there are 10,000 Americans left in the country who are at risk of being killed or kidnapped, your plan wasn’t a good one. All Rubin can offer here is the suggestion that maybe a better plan would have actually been a worse plan. This is conveniently immune to argument since we can’t ever know what might have happened had the administration done things differently. But when the US government is sending US citizens messages that say ‘good luck getting to the airport’ the plan we did go with probably wasn’t the best one possible.

Moving on:

The administration didn’t anticipate a Taliban takeover, at least not an immediate one. False. That possibility was in intelligence reports. The administration placed thousands of troops in the region to arrive promptly in the event of a swift disintegration. It is true, however, that the expectation was that the Afghan army wouldn’t capitulate without fighting.


The word “administration” is doing a lot of work obscuring things here. The information apparently was in the intelligence sent to the White House but that’s not the issue. The issue is that Joe Biden himself assured us that this precise outcome would not happen just a month ago. And it appears he personally pushed for this hasty exit despite knowing there was a possibility of a quick collapse. Did the information exist? Yes. Did Biden heed it? Clearly not. Biden himself admitted that the collapse happened quicker than his administration thought so why is she even arguing this? It’s the only small element of failure Biden has conceded but it seems Rubin just can’t accept it.

Not content to deny what has already happened, Rubin goes on to deny what will happen in the future!

Afghanistan is now a sanctuary for terrorists to strike America. Well, it could become that. But the administration argues that we prevent terrorist attacks from all sorts of countries including Yemen and Syria (which the administration argues are bigger threats) without troops on the ground. For years, we have monitored and defused threats from these places. Whether we will be able to do the same with regard to Afghanistan remains to be seen.

We know from reporting in her own paper (are you seeing a pattern) that jihadists have been excitedly communicating about about what they see as the defeat of the US and the potential for the return of al Qaeda and ISIS. Her response boils down to ‘the future hasn’t happened yet.’ Gee, thanks for that brilliant insight. The point is, we can already see some cause for concern on this front. And you know who else can see it? Jen Rubin. She wrote a piece about this exact problem in April of this year (h/t Drew Holden):


My colleague and military historian Max Boot writes, “It will be hard for the United States to conduct over-the-horizon counterterrorism operations because it will lose visibility on the threat: A U.S. military withdrawal also means the withdrawal of many intelligence personnel.” He adds that “even if threats are detected, it will be hard to eradicate them — long-range air strikes are likely to be inaccurate and commando operations risky.”

We will find out whether remote forces can detect a resurgence of terrorists and take action as needed to knock them out. We nevertheless should recognize that even in the best-case scenario (e.g., solid intelligence that helps detect and prevent terrorists with capacity to attack the United States from reassembling), the work of building a stable government and protecting women’s rights will become extraordinarily difficult.

Rubin knows this is a real danger. She wrote as much four months ago. Yet today when that fact is inconvenient to her defense of the Biden administration so she completely reverses herself.

Last one. Rubin writes “We should have preserved the status quo by leaving several thousand troops in the country.” You can click over for her full response but this part of it struck me as funny: “The administration…argues that Afghanistan is fundamentally different from South Korea and Germany, where U.S. troops are not stationed in the middle of a civil war. This explanation may have been self-serving and erroneous.”


The war between north and south Korea wasn’t a civil war? North Korea isn’t routinely threatening the US and South Korea even today? That will be news to a lot of people. Again, the issue here isn’t that Rubin is ignorant it’s that she’s a complete and total hack. Even when she knows the stuff coming from the administration doesn’t make sense she just skips over it and defends them anyway.

If you haven’t had enough of this, Rubin has already moved on from this embarrassing mess to another piece about how Biden can retain his reputation for competence.

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