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That’s the title of a long article in The Atlantic by George Packer about the Biden administration’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Even if you’re already as disgusted as I am by the betrayal — Donald Trump’s decision to turn over the whole country to the Taliban and, especially, Biden’s scandalous handling of the pullout — the article is well worth reading in full. It should be required reading for any Democrat who still has confidence in Biden.
David Von Drehle provides a good summary of the non-anecdotal portions of Packer’s piece. He writes:
[Packer’s] indictment takes aim at the apparently willful failure to offer an orderly exit from Afghanistan for combat interpreters, embassy support staff, intelligence informants and so on. Many of these individuals have been denounced as traitors and are at risk of death — if they haven’t been killed already.
Biden is quoted saying more than once that the United States had no duty to protect those who relied on or worked beside us. And so advocates of honorable assistance met one brick wall after another. A proposal to relocate Afghans to the U.S. territory of Guam while processing their visa applications went nowhere. Bipartisan delegations of U.S. veterans beseeched the White House for action — but concluded that they were being ignored. Further, they surmised that, considering the multitude of humanitarian policy promoters at senior levels in the administration, the cold shoulder could only be coming from the very top.
Von Drehle continues:
Though no one from the White House would say so on the record, Packer reports that Biden’s people continue to claim there was no way they could have foreseen how quickly the Taliban would complete its takeover. But it was foreshadowed, notably by Dexter Filkins in the New Yorker in March of last winter.
His report portrayed a robust Taliban and an Afghan government already collapsing. The Taliban controlled Afghanistan’s highways, operated de facto governments in the provinces and maintained an open, armed presence even in the capital, Kabul. Meanwhile, the Afghan army couldn’t fill its ranks even by dangling money, and the public had given up on the corrupt administration of feckless Ashraf Ghani, the former president who fled the country.
Failure to plan equals planning to fail, the saying goes — and it was true. Biden’s failure to plan for an honorable, orderly retreat from Afghanistan produced the very scenes of chaos and abandonment he had hoped to avoid.
Packer acknowledges that Kabul fell faster than anticipated. However, he condemns the Biden administration’s failure to plan for a worst-case scenario.
What about the administration’s claim that however ugly it might have been, the airlift from Kabul was ultimately a great success? It’s nonsense:
By one estimate [that of Human Rights First]. . .90 percent of Afghans eligible for relocation were left behind. Most of those who did get out were rescued only by the initiative of conscience-stricken troops and diplomats in Kabul, and by a loose network of tireless volunteers working around-the-clock stateside.
In other words, had matters been left solely to Team Biden, the failure rate probably would have exceeded 95 percent.
Von Drehle concludes with this:
Biden’s approval rating plunged during the days so grippingly recounted in Packer’s article. So far, it hasn’t recovered. The more one learns about the pullout from Afghanistan, and the willful betrayal of our friends, the more perceptive and just that judgment appears.
Right. But unfortunately the stain of the pullout extends beyond Biden. In my opinion, it’s a stain on America’s international reputation and, above all, our honor.
The last word goes to Packer:
The Biden administration failed to heed the warnings on Afghanistan, failed to act with urgency—and its failure has left tens of thousands of Afghans to a terrible fate. This betrayal will live in infamy. The burden of shame falls on President Joe Biden.