Back in August 24, I wrote about how Biden's ego carried a severely heavy price. From reversing the previous administration's border policies to halting domestic energy production, his policies only ended up hurting more people than they helped. However, nothing may ever top his major slip up on the Afghanistan pullout. The Taliban's August 31 deadline has already passed, and there are still many Americans and allies stuck in the wartorn country.
Considering the dangerous situation in Afghanistan, Biden and his administration have been asked several times on what they would do to get the remaining Americans out. However, those questions have been either met with beating-around-the-bush answers or making a total beeline for the exit.
Note how Biden had to pause for a few seconds to find the exit.
Sometimes, the administration staffers would contradict each other's statements. One notable example was when White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told Fox News's Peter Doocey that calling the Americans stuck in Afghanistan stranded was "irresponsible". And then, the Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said the following in an MSNBC interview when he was asked on how the remaining Americans would be evacuated:
It's not completely unlike the way we do elsewhere around the world. I mean, we have Americans that get stranded in countries all the time.
Oh, and Kamala Harris doing her best Waldo impression in case you're wondering.
However, what really took the cake was this report from Reuters on a July 23 phone call between Biden and ex-Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. Having read excerpts of the transcript, I was pretty shocked and disappointed at the level of irresponsibility.
Parsing through the words between their exchange, Biden and Ghani's dialogue had a rather confident tone. Biden touted how the Afghan army had the "best military", sporting "300,000 well-armed forces versus 70-80,000" Taliban fighters. He was very certain that the Afghan government would not only survive the Taliban's advances, but also grow stronger (*Cue the curb your enthusiasm theme). Ghani expressed more cautious optimism. He expressed confidence in the Afghan military's ability to rally and the urban resistance that kept the Taliban for 55 days (at the time) and not surrendered. However, he did express some challenges to Biden such as the stagnant military pay, the failed diplomacy with the Taliban, and the Taliban's logistics.
What really raised my eyebrows was Biden's big focus on changing the perception of the Afghan government. At the very beginning of the phone call, Biden said the following:
I need not tell you the perception around the world and in parts of Afghanistan, I believe, is that things aren’t going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban. And there’s a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.
He gave Ghani some rather vague ideas on how to go about this "changing the perception" strategy:
If you empower Bismillah [Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi] to execute a strategy focused on key parts of the population centers, and I’m not a military guy, so I’m not telling you what that plan should precisely look like, you’re going to get not only more help, but you’re going to get a perception that is going to change in terms of how , um…[unclear].. our allies and folks here in the States and other places think you’re doing.
But I really think, I don’t know whether you’re aware, just how much the perception around the world is that this is looking like a losing proposition, which it is not, not that it necessarily is that, but so the conclusion I’m asking you to consider is to bring together everyone from [Former Vice President Abdul Rashid] Dostum, to [Former President Hamid] Karzai and in between, if they stand there and say they back the strategy you put together, and put a warrior in charge, you know a military man, [Defense Minister Bismillah] Khan in charge of executing that strategy, and that will change perception, and that will change an awful lot I think.
General Mark Milley also gave Ghani the similar "perception" rhetoric:
The perception in the United States, in Europe and the media sort of thing is a narrative of Taliban momentum, and a narrative of Taliban victory. And we need to collectively demonstrate and try to turn that perception, that narrative around.
While Reuters does not have the full transcript, it's clear from the dialogue that Biden was completely unaware of the collapse that would come 23 days after the phone call. Had he been aware of it, one would see a more urgent tone from his words. Instead, Biden was more concerned about how the Afghan government would look "in front of the camera", so to speak.
Closing Thoughts: Irresponsibility of Duty
The phone call partially explains why there were so many Americans and allies stranded in Kabul, desperate to get out. When you put out "news" that "Don't worry, it's fine. Everything's going to be okay", the recipients of that message will get that false sense of security. Had a more cautionary, urgent message been put out, I am confident there would be far less people trapped (that and actually pulling the civilians out first before pulling out the troops).
To see Biden kicking the can down the road like that is pretty infuriating and while he has said that "the buck stops with [him]", he hasn't actually taken full responsibility of the consequences. Not only are there still Americans trapped in Afghanistan (like this individual below), but 13 US service members got killed in a suicide bombing attack when they didn't need to.
And the blowback has been pretty harsh. The families of the deceased service members weren't very happy with how Biden handled the Afghanistan situation and the aftermath of the suicide bombing. On top of that, the general public is beginning to turn its back on Biden the same way he has turned his back to the press whenever he's pressed on Afghanistan.
Only 40.5 more months to go...