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ANALYSIS: There’s A Lot Of Finger Pointing Going On After The Fall Of Afghanistan

(Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Bradley Devlin General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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President Joe Biden’s administration and military leadership are trying to dodge blame in the wake of a disastrous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The Taliban overtook Kabul and has declared the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, closing 20 years of war that cost over a trillion dollars and 2,000 American soldiers’ lives. Critics argue that the images the nation and the world are seeing coming out of Afghanistan will define Biden’s presidency and the conflict. Naturally, nobody wants to take the fall for it. Various officials have even begun flatly contradicting each other.

The U.S. intelligence community revised their estimate of how long the U.S.-backed government would last after American soldiers left the country, shifting down from two years to six months, The Wall Street Journal reported. The two-year estimate was about the same amount of time between the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam and Saigon’s collapse in April of 1975. Territorial gains the Taliban made in spring and early summer as troops left the country shortened the timeline of Kabul’s possible collapse. (RELATED: How The Taliban Takeover Of Afghanistan Became Biden’s ‘Fall Of Saigon’ Moment)

Prior to this change, White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed during a press conference in April that military leaders recommended leaving 2,500 troops in Afghanistan long term.

Then the timeline for Kabul’s collapse shortened again — this time to within 90 days, The Washington Post reported Aug. 10. An anonymous Pentagon official told the Post that government military strategists were also preparing for an evacuation scenario in case Kabul fell within a mere 30 days after the U.S.’s departure.

Even this doomsday scenario that was being considered by the Pentagon at the time seems rosy, given what’s transpired over the past week. It only took one weekend for Kabul to fall and most of the Afghan government and military to disband or retreat to foreign countries, leaving American citizens in the country vulnerable or stranded.

Despite these reports — along with other reports such as the Afghan Papers released by the Washington Post in November 2019 suggesting the Afghan security forces’ unreadiness — Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley claimed the U.S. did not have any indication the Afghan government would fall to the Taliban as soon as it did.

“The time frame of a rapid collapse, that was widely estimated. It ranged from weeks to months and even years following our departure,” Milley claimed at a Wednesday press conference. “There was nothing that I, or anyone else, saw that indicated a collapse of [the Afghan] army and this government in 11 days.”

Biden similarly claimed the Taliban takeover “did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated” when he addressed the nation shortly after Afghanistan fell. Right before he acknowledged this point, the president also said: “We were clear-eyed about the risks. We planned for every contingency.”

Both cannot be true at the same time: Either the U.S. failed to prepare for every scenario, or the scenarios they did prepare for were based on military intelligence that was proven to be bogus.

During his speech, the president seemed to partly blame former President Donald Trump for the rise of the Taliban because of a ceasefire deal Trump signed with the group.

“When I came into office, I inherited a deal that President Trump negotiated with the Taliban. Under his agreement, U.S. forces would be out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021 — just a little over three months after I took office,” Biden said. “U.S. forces had already drawn down during the Trump administration from roughly 15,500 American forces to 2,500 troops in country, and the Taliban was at its strongest militarily since 2001.”

“The choice I had to make, as your President, was either to follow through on that agreement or be prepared to go back to fighting the Taliban in the middle of the spring fighting season,” Biden continued.

Biden then blamed the Afghan government and military in his speech.

“Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight,” Biden said. Members of the Afghan government fled to neighboring countries like Iran, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, as did members of the Afghan military with U.S. equipment. Other members of the military just gave up their arms, essentially paving the Taliban’s way into Kabul.

Biden also denied that military leaders recommended keeping 2,500 troops in Afghanistan — which Psaki confirmed in April to the media — during a one-on-one interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.

“Your top military advisers warned against withdrawing on this timeline. They wanted you to keep about 2,500 troops,” Stephanopoulos stated.

“No, they didn’t. It was split. That– That wasn’t true. That wasn’t true,” Biden interjected.

“They didn’t tell you that they wanted troops to stay?” Stephanopoulos asked the president.

“No. Not at — not in terms of whether we were going to get out in a timeframe all troops [sic]. They didn’t argue against that,” Biden said.

“So no one told — your military advisors did not tell you, ‘No, we should just keep 2,500 troops. It’s been a stable situation for the last several years. We can do that. We can continue to do that’?” Stephanopoulos pressed.

“No. No one said that to me that I can recall,” Biden said.

This all prompts a series of questions. Is Biden pointing the finger at his vacationing press secretary for saying something that is untrue? Is he blaming his military advisers for not feeding him this information prior to withdrawal? Or is he simply being forgetful?