Every major prediction President Joe Biden made regarding the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan proved to be woefully inaccurate in a matter of weeks.
Biden addressed the country Monday after the world watched the Taliban march into Kabul over the weekend, facing virtually no resistance, and oust the two-decades-old U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan. As recently as days earlier, the White House was assuring onlookers that the end result of America’s pullout would look like anything but what it actually became.
On July 8, Biden dismissed any comparisons to the U.S. withdrawal from Saigon, South Vietnam, saying the two situations are “not at all comparable.”
“There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of a embassy in the — of the United States from Afghanistan,” he said.
Kabul today pic.twitter.com/JP7SNgq6Ra
— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) August 15, 2021
Six weeks later, Americans at the embassy in Kabul were scrambling to escape to the city’s airport. Biden had to authorize the deployment of additional troops to help evacuate the personnel who were already in the country. Even members of his own party are drawing parallels with the embarrassing Vietnam episode. (RELATED: ANALYSIS: How The Taliban Takeover Of Afghanistan Became Biden’s ‘Fall Of Saigon’ Moment)
Biden vowed he would not send more troops back into Afghanistan despite the threat of a Taliban takeover.
Biden insisted July 8 that a Taliban takeover of the country was “not inevitable.” He believed the Afghan military had the fortitude and ability necessary, he said, to defend their country from the Islamic insurgents. “No, it is not, because the Afghan troops have 300,000 well-equipped — as well-equipped as any army in the world — and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban. It is not inevitable,” the president said.
In reality, the Taliban advance was rapid and relentless. They captured dozens of districts in a matter of weeks after Biden made that prediction, with little or no resistance present in most cities from the Afghan armed forces. The Taliban were reportedly able to bribe and negotiate their way through the country, and hardly fired a shot when taking the capital city, Kabul. (RELATED: Out Goes Biden, In Comes Iran: US Adversaries Swarm To Fill Vacuum Created By Afghanistan Withdrawal)
It wasn’t only Biden that grossly misjudged the capability of the Taliban. The intelligence community predicted it would take as long as six months for Kabul to fall after the U.S. got out. It fell before the last U.S. personnel were evacuated.
Some of his generals warned this would happen, though. Washington Post White House correspondent Anne Gearen said Biden didn’t listen to his generals who said Kabul would fall. “I also think he saw the possibility and the opportunity to do what no other president had been able to do before and end it,” Gearan said. “That was more important to him than any of the arguments about why a very small force might be cost-effective in the long run.”
The administration appeared to think the Taliban might respond to diplomatic pressures. That too failed. Following the Trump administration’s “peace deal” with the insurgents last year that initially laid out a timetable for full U.S. withdrawal, Biden urged the Afghan government to reach a peaceful resolution with Taliban leaders rather than undergo a prolonged conflict.
In his remarks Monday, Biden blamed the Afghan government for refusing his advice to “engage in diplomacy, to seek a political settlement with the Taliban.” However, there are no signs the Taliban was ever open to a diplomatic solution. (RELATED: POLL: 70% Of Americans Disapprove Of Biden’s Handling Of Military Operations In Afghanistan)
The U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, threatened that the U.S. and its allies would isolate the militants from the international community if they took power by force. The embassy in Kabul released a statement about the “deeply disturbing” reports of Taliban war crimes. More pressure came from the likes of the UN and American allies, but none of it slowed the Taliban march to the seat of the Afghan government.
Perhaps the biggest botch of the process was the evacuation of U.S. personnel and the Afghans that aided them. Despite knowing for well over a year that the withdrawal from Afghanistan was on the books, there was apparently no functional plan put in place to get the right people out until weeks before it was complete. It took until July 14 for the Biden administration to launch “Operation Allies Refuge” to help relocate Afghans who helped the U.S. during the war.
Biden says we didn’t evacuate vulnerable Afghan allies sooner because some didn’t want to leave (how many is that? backlog for applications is 18K primary applicants + 53k family members) & Afghan gov’t didn’t want to trigger “crisis of confidence” (what happened this past week?)
— Catherine Rampell (@crampell) August 16, 2021
Members of both parties have lambasted the administration for the logistical failure, which has reportedly left tens of thousands of Afghan allies and their families stuck in the country, many on Taliban kill lists. Biden blamed the Afghan government Monday, not his own, saying that many of the interpreters and other allies didn’t want to leave earlier and inspire a “crisis of confidence.”
The final prediction of the Biden administration that is not yet tested is on what comes next. After Biden announced his plans for full withdrawal, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Afghanistan would not turn into Iraq, which became home to ISIS after the U.S. reduced its footprint there. He further said it would not become a launching point for terrorists. Biden has consistently said that the U.S. has met its goal of rooting out terrorist elements from the country, particularly those behind 9/11, and it still has the capability of doing so even post-withdrawal.
AP reporting that Biden admin “officials now believe terror groups like al-Qaida may be able to grow much faster than expected, according to the person, who had direct knowledge of the briefing [to Senators on situation in Afghanistan].” https://t.co/dWnWr1F4H6
— Asfandyar Mir (@asfandyarmir) August 15, 2021
U.S. generals seemingly disagree, though, saying terror threats from the Taliban and al-Qaida will now increase. Time will tell if arguably the biggest Afghanistan bet by the Biden administration proves folly like the rest.