Biden Feared Political Backlash Over Bringing Afghans to America

A humanitarian crisis made worse by shameful delays.

Alex Ward reports for POLITICO (“‘They were sitting on their hands’: Insiders say Biden’s team wasted precious time on evacuating Afghans“):

During an interagency meeting early this summer, a Defense Department official was asked if the Pentagon had a list of all Afghans who worked alongside the United States during the 20-year war. The Pentagon representative responded that such a list didn’t exist.

Then during another interagency meeting in early July, this one classified and conducted via video conference, a State Department staffer detailed how they would eventually relocate vulnerable Afghans seeking special visas to the U.S. The official asserted that Kabul wouldn’t fall for six to 12 months, so they had plenty of time to hire more staff and position consular officers to the capital to process the 20,000-person backlog.

And in late July, two weeks before the Taliban captured their first provincial capital, a coalition of groups that work with special visa applicants wrote multiple emails to the State Department’s Afghanistan Task Force offering their assistance. Those emails were never returned.

These instances, detailed to POLITICO by five U.S. officials and people familiar with the situation, are indicative of how the administration wasted precious time and failed to prepare to evacuate thousands in danger as the Taliban plotted their comeback. Flaws in the planning and execution of the withdrawal have led to wrenching scenes of Afghans clinging to U.S. military cargo planes as they race out of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, where President Joe Biden has dispatched up to 7,000 troops to handle the chaos.

“They were sitting on their hands,” said a congressional aide who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. “They only started surging three to four weeks ago.” In fact, it was only on Saturday that the State Department task force approached those same activist organizations and sought their help to fill out a list with names of people needing relocation.

This is simply shameful. And baffling. When President Biden announced back in April that he was going to follow through on his predecessor’s timeline for withdrawal, many of us—and in venues more prominent than this one—immediately noted that it was morally necessary to evacuate those Afghans whose collaboration with us was the closest, as they would naturally be targeted by the Taliban once our ability to protect them locally ended. And they were receiving those same messages, urgently, on the inside as well.

Thankfully, Defense One‘s Tara Copp reports (“US Ramps Up Emergency Kabul Airlift to Get 5,000 to 9,000 Out Per Day”) the administration is stepping up after the initial debacle.

The U.S. is ramping up its airlift for Americans and Afghans fleeing the Taliban and will be able to evacuate 5,000 to 9,000 people per day, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Tuesday. 

The rapid escalation of military airlift—ramping up to as many as one departing flight per hour within the next 24 hours—is occurring as the Taliban have taken control of all traffic outside of Hamid Karzai International Airport. 

Defense Department officials are now in direct talks with Taliban leaders on that perimeter security and to avoid any escalation of conflict while the U.S. conducts evacuation operations, Kirby said. 

“Our commanders at the airport are in communication with Taliban commanders on the ground outside the airport, there have been discussions …. and I would just let the results speak for themselves,” Kirby said. 

On Tuesday, the Pentagon also acknowledged the extraordinary efforts of an Air Mobility Command C-17 Globemaster crew, Reach 871, who chose not to force out hundreds of Afghans who scrambled over a half-closed back ramp and instead got as many aboard as they could, then took off, rescuing a total of 640 evacuees. The photo of their evacuation was exclusively reported by Defense One

“This was an aircrew trying to be as humane as they could,” Kirby said in a phone interview. “That photo speaks a thousand words as to the humanity of that aircrew.” 

Their excuses for why we were caught flat-footed are thin, indeed. Back to Ward:

Administration officials insist they’ve done all they can to extricate friendly Afghans, handling complicated logistics while winding down America’s military involvement in the war. They also say larger factors complicated their response, such as the previous administration’s disinterest in this issue, a decimated staff and the pandemic.

But a State Department official acknowledged that all explanations fall short. “If you want excuses, there are plenty to choose from, but they’ll be little comfort to the dead,” the official said.

Officials say they’ve been working to address the visa-applicant issue well before the breakdown in Afghanistan.

“We were asked by the State Department to provide support to their operation. That’s not a suggestion that is when SIVs became a priority for the government that has been for many years,” Garry Reid of the Pentagon’s Afghanistan Crisis Action Group told reporters on Monday.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby later noted on Tuesday that the administration will strive to evacuate all visa-seeking Afghans and U.S. citizens by Aug. 31, the planned withdrawal date for U.S. troops.

This, however, is harsh:

Others aren’t convinced President Biden and his team prioritized the special visa issue, saying they’ve long expressed political concerns that delayed their response. They “viewed it as the worst-case political outcome for them to bring Afghans to the U.S.,” fearing the domestic repercussions if one commits a terrorist act, a person familiar with the administration’s thinking speculated.

An administration official relayed a similar message to POLITICO on Monday: “It’s like they want the credit from liberals for ending the Trump cruelty to immigrants and refugees but they also don’t want the political backlash that comes from actual refugees arriving in America in any sort of large numbers.” White House officials have long denied this is the case.

If true, this is monstrous. We could easily absorb 20,000 Afghan refugees here in Fairfax County, Virginia. We’re at over 1.1 million total population and have added 100,000 folks in just the last decade. Over 31 percent of the residents are foreign-born and 20 percent are of Asian descent. Dulles airport is less than half an hour’s drive. Bring them on.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Joe Biden, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jen says:

    Bring them on.

    This is my feeling too.

    But I’d be willing to bet that an awful lot of the people complaining about how this was handled wouldn’t take a breath between fussing about that before saying that we’re “letting terrorists in.”

    Had this been me, I would have spent the weeks running up to this filming PSAs featuring American military personnel who fought in Afghanistan saying that we need to do this, to run on TV right now.

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  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Maybe this should be here instead of the open thread: Kevin Drum:

    Here’s what’s happened in Afghanistan over the past 24 hours:

    Order has been restored at Kabul airport.
    Evacuation flights are operating.
    The Taliban has announced a “general amnesty” for government officials.
    The US embassy in Kabul is still operating, coordinating the evacuation of US citizens and “vulnerable Afghans.”
    Kabul remains calm, and the Taliban is not targeting American citizens or diplomatic personnel.
    President Biden authorized an additional $500 million in aid to Afghan refugees.
    He also announced that in addition to the Afghan refugees authorized earlier this month, he planned to expand refugee access to Afghans who worked for US NGOs and news agencies.

    Some of this could change by tomorrow, of course, and in the long term it’s almost certain that Taliban rule will be brutal and medieval, especially for women. Still, this is an example of how dangerous it is to panic over a single day’s images. Yesterday the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan was a world-historical disaster and a sign of America’s imminent collapse on the international stage. Today, 24 hours later, everything is running fairly smoothly.

    And tomorrow? Nobody knows. But instead of guessing, why not wait until tomorrow dawns and find out?

    Not that Biden will get any credit for it.

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  3. mistermix says:

    Good to see that all of Politico’s sources went on the record so we could judge whether they had an agenda or axe to grind. I’d also like to get their definition of an “administration official” — which could include career military in the DoD who are upset that we’re pulling out.

    This whole episode has engendered some lava-hot, histrionic takes that even emo teenagers would be embarrassed about. On Monday we suffered a world-historic defeat. Yet, on Tuesday, it looks like we’ve secured the airport and evacuation flights have begun. Let’s see what happens in the next few days before we write off the Biden Administration’s long-overdue exit from a losing war.

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  4. Cheryl Rofer says:

    I don’t know why anyone reads anything Politico prints. Or ANY of the hot takes over the weekend. But Mistermix and Ozark and Kevin have said pretty much what I would say about the situation.

    Yes, it’s shameful that the administration didn’t know exactly what would happen in a detailed timetable and upsetting that we didn’t see neat, polite queues for leaving from the very start. Give me a break.

    Planning for evacuation implies the expectation that the government will fall, so those expressing concern about its execution now would be able to complain about that if that were the way it went down. Win-win.

    ETA: Good to see the Balloon Juice crowd here!

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  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Nice to hear from you too. I don’t comment at LGM because I just don’t like nested comments. My problem.

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  6. Teve says:

    Testing

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  7. Teve says:

    Huh. Changed my Gravatar to a recent pic but OtB isn’t showing it. Probly a time delay.

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  8. Teve says:

    Of course I make that comment just as the software updates. 😀

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  9. CSK says:

    @Teve:
    Huh. I’ve seen a different pic attached to your name. Not that there’s anything wrong with this one.

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  10. Teve says:

    @CSK: I have to use my middle initial when applying for jobs. Because there’s a Steve Story who’s in prison in Georgia for murder. Not me, guys. 😀

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  11. Sleeping Dog says:

    Charlie Sykes had a summary on Monday of the MAGAts organized move against Afghani resettlement. Biden was right to be concerned about the political backlash, but should have proceeded anyway.

    https://morningshots.thebulwark.com/p/the-rights-anti-refugee-jihad

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  12. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    The delay– Shameful? Yes. Surprising? Not particularly. I go back to my favorite money quote on this matter–

    ‘Fuck that, we don’t have to worry about that. We did it in Vietnam, Nixon and Kissinger got away with it.’

    to note that the most surprising thing is the administration doing anything close to meeting its commitment to the Afghan civilians it made promises to. Kudos to Biden’s people for changing his view.

    The other thing that my crystal ball is telling me is that “WE, THE PEOPLE” will not be engaging in mass recitals of Emma Lazarus’ poem to welcome our newly rescued allies. I hope that the people in the communities that receive these refugees will be as welcoming as Dr. Joyner and Jen are suggesting we should be (but I don’t expect it). Still, I’ve been wrong before about human nature. He’s hoping for another failure from being too cynical.

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  13. gVOR08 says:

    Thin excuse indeed. They believed the State and Defense estimates. At this late date one would expect them to know better.

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  14. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    I think this is causing a lot of confusion in MAGA circles. On the one hand, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham are against bringing Afghanis here. On the other hand, the MAGAs see Biden as abandoning the Afghanis to the Taliban.

    What to do, what to do?

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  15. gVOR08 says:

    My sister in law did some teaching for Hmong refugees in MN. There was a lot of resistance to their resettlement. Of course there would be backlash. You don’t really think all the whining by Republicans about Biden abandoning Afghan women to a horrible fate would translate into welcoming a few thousand into their communities, do you?

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  16. Matthew Bernius says:

    Others aren’t convinced President Biden and his team prioritized the special visa issue, saying they’ve long expressed political concerns that delayed their response. They “viewed it as the worst-case political outcome for them to bring Afghans to the U.S.,” fearing the domestic repercussions if one commits a terrorist act, a person familiar with the administration’s thinking speculated.

    Multiple things that are all true at once:
    1. This is a morally repugnant stance,
    2. it’s also an example of cowardice,
    3. and to @Sleeping Dog’s point, this is also a well-grounded concern.

    Speaking for work done in criminal legal system reform, this is a fear we know all too well. When a state or city reforms bail or launches an alternative dispute resolution system (like restorative justice mediation), advocates and politicians have to be prepared to weather “Willy Horton” style attacks. Someone who is released on their own recognizance will inevitably do something bad. And that will be used by opponents of the policies as a cudgel to return to the previous status quo (or an even worse policy).

    The reality of the government at the federal level is that we have a nativist party that is already staunchly anti-immigration (let alone refuge). And they have outsized control thanks to the underlying political system right now.

    And what happened here, is a real politick example of the results of those two forces combining.

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  17. Scott F. says:

    I think one might want to give deeper consideration on where to direct shame at this time before pointing fingers.

    Biden’s administration – rightfully – anticipated significant political backlash from accepting a large number of Afghan refugees in a short amount of time. That amount of time to work was naively overestimated and the administration lacked urgency in developing countermeasures to that backlash. That’s a shame, because readiness to accept as many US assisting Afghans as we can is morally obvious.

    On the other hand, political backlash was assured, as there is a political faction and powerful media players primed to use the arriving Afghans to stoke the fears and bigotry of their xenophobic constituents. That’s a dreadful shame, since accepting as many US assisting Afghans as we can is morally obvious.

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  18. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    Indeed
    Nicole Wallace’s comment immediately after Biden addressed the rationale for evacuating Afghanistan, was something like this: ‘95% of the American public agree with Biden on this; 95% of the journalists will not ‘.
    It certainly appears that the “journalists” are ginning up the tragic aspect of some Afganis being left behind. What I haven’t heard any of the journalists highlighting is that all war (conflicts/occupations) exact an awful toll on the innocent

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  19. Sleeping Dog says:

    @gVOR08:

    I’ve relayed this story before of sitting in a Black Hills hotel room, watching the local news and listening to a Paul Harvey segment demanding that the US Navy sink the vessels that the ‘Boat People,’ Vietnamese refugees were using to escape, correctly fearing that they would be relocated to to the US. RW opposition to our erstwhile allies in conflict isn’t new. It was despicable then and now.

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  20. Scott says:

    @Sleeping Dog: A lot of those Vietnamese settled in Houston area. Many went into the fishing and shrimping business. And once the Vietnamese got here, they were subject to all kinds of abuse. Mostly for the crime of outworking their American counterparts. Like most immigrants do.

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  21. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I hope that the people in the communities that receive these refugees will be as welcoming as Dr. Joyner and Jen are suggesting we should be (but I don’t expect it). Still, I’ve been wrong before about human nature. He’s hoping for another failure from being too cynical.

    NPR had a piece on this yesterday. The bringing in of refugees is being facilitated by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. They have a little bit of experience with this stuff.

    Talking about the first approximately 2,000 that have come in already:

    O’MARA VIGNARAJAH: Exactly. So I was actually at Fort Lee a week before, was able to meet with some of the families. They arrived there. For some, the final step was just the medical exam, and so that was conducted on base. And then the vast majority of them are now resettled in communities across the country.

    KELLY: Where are they going? How does that get decided?

    O’MARA VIGNARAJAH: We take into account whether they have family ties to a given state or city, whether there is a concentration of other Afghans that could provide a stable community to integrate into. And so we see concentrations particularly in Virginia, in California and in Texas.

    So they’re going into communities which already have Afghan populations, which will help to mitigate the backlash.

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  22. Lounsbury says:

    @Bob@Youngstown: Well yes – and of course the Pashtun village women suffering from being collateral damage from drone strikes on the Talebans, not being English fluent nor photogenically attractive for self-congratulatory Savoir Narratives rather get ignored in this calculus.

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  23. Andy says:

    The thing is that this is another one of those longstanding problems that’s been kicked down the road by every administration, and this administration kicked it as long as they could. And I think the reason is definitely the domestic political calculation that easing the process brings no political benefits, while one mistake (letting someone bad in that does something bad) could end a Presidency.

    The US government does not even have a list of all the Afghans that were employed by the US government. This is a big reason why it’s been veterans groups who have pushed the hardest on this for well over a decade, by directly helping their former Afghan comrades with paperwork and even money.

    The author George Packer, in his recent article in the Atlantic, describes trying to help one he knows.

    But at this point, the visa process is OBE thanks to the events of the last few days. The biggest issue now is not paperwork, it is that Americans and Afghans alike have to somehow get to the safety of the Kabul airport and they are on their own. The Taliban may allow Americans through (that’s yet to be seen), but there are no indications that the Taliban have given up on their decades-long goal to murder those who worked for and helped our government.

    And yes, even though it hasn’t been in the news, the Taliban have been killing or trying to kill Afghans that helped the US for a very long time. Political cowardice has a cost in blood.

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  24. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Scott:

    We lived in Mpls when the Hmong were resettled there. Minnesotans being Minnesotans, the discrimination was more subtle, but evident. The house next to us was owned by the city Housing Authority and a tenant in was a young Hmong couple, she couldn’t been 16. They were wonderful neighbors. He insisted that I come to a family gathering, I guess it was very traditional. He seated me at the elder table, between an uncle close to my age and a cousin who spoke good English. The uncle mentioned that during the war he worked for the CIA and with a bit of prompting offered some tales. Interesting day.

    The Hmong have contributed greatly to a modern Minnesota.

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  25. Andy says:

    I see now that Packer has a new article out today on the topic. It’s a bit of a sobering counterpoint to Kevin Drum’s rose-colored talking points.

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  26. Raoul says:

    I don’t think the article supports the headline. It reads like “some say” type of story. I’m not saying the Biden administration slowed the immigration of refugees for political reasons, I’m just saying this is poorly sourced.

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  27. Andy says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Yes, it’s shameful that the administration didn’t know exactly what would happen in a detailed timetable and upsetting that we didn’t see neat, polite queues for leaving from the very start. Give me a break.

    Planning for evacuation implies the expectation that the government will fall, so those expressing concern about its execution now would be able to complain about that if that were the way it went down. Win-win.

    This was a foreseeable outcome that wasn’t adequately planned or prepared for. Full-stop. Even the President admitted in his speech on Monday that their estimates and assumptions were wrong. It’s incredibly rare to get a politician to admit any error, much less a President in a crisis like this, and I think it’s something that speaks to Biden’s good character and his ability to stick with his principles on Afghanistan policy. But that doesn’t mean we ignore or hand-wave or offload his mistakes or the mistakes of his administration. The effort to somehow absolve Biden with a lot of handwaving is both contrary to the facts and unnecessary.

    I think Biden is doing the right things now and making the most of a bad situation. And he’s owned up to his responsibilities and moving forward. That is one of the big reasons I voted for him and still support him despite this massive error by his administration. As far as I’m concerned, the finger-pointing can come later. We can acknowledge that our government massively fucked this up but leave the hows and whys and creation of self-serving partisan narratives for after the present crisis is over.

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  28. JohnSF says:

    Not exactly on topic, but close enough, perhaps?
    There was an Emergency Session of Parliament today.
    You might like see a few extracts. (Apologies for missing links, and any garbling of orders of the speeches; was pasting transcripts into a text editor.)

    Or you might not.

    It was one of the most remarkable Commons sessions I’ve ever heard.
    Speaker has prioritised military veteran MP’s for the debate.

    The most powerful speech of all:
    Tom Tugendhat MP, Afghanistan veteran, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee

    “Like many veterans this last week has seen me struggle through anger, grief, rage. The feeling of abandonment, not just of a country, but of the sacrifice my friends made.”
    “I watched good men go into the earth, taking with them a part of me and a part of all of us. This week has torn open some of those wounds. Left them raw. Left us all hurting.”

    “To see their commander in chief call into the question the courage of men I fought with, to claim that they ran is shameful. Those who have not fought for the colours they fly should be careful about criticising those who have.
    This is a harsh lesson for all of us and if we’re not careful it could be a very, very difficult lesson for our allies.
    It doesn’t need to be. We can set out a vision, clearly articulate it, for reinvigorating our European Nato partners, to make sure that we are not dependent on a single ally, on the decision of a single leader, that that we can work together with Japan and Australia, France and Germany, with partners large and small and make sure we hold the line together.

    “It’s nations that make war. Nations endure. Nations mobilise and muster. Nations determine and have patience. And here we’ve demonstrated, sadly, that we, the west, the United Kingdom, does not.”

    “So let’s stop talking about forever wars, let’s recognise that forever peace is bought not cheaply but hard, through determination and a will to endure.
    “The tragedy of Afghanistan is that we are swapping that patient achievement for a second fire and a second war, now we need to turn our attention to those who are in desperate need,”

    There is a standing ovation and clapping when Tugendhat finishes speaking.
    Commons tradition is that speeches are never clapped.

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  29. keef says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    That’s funny. Well known Republican cable outlet, and long time Biden enemy, CNN sees it differently.

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/cnn-reporter-in-afghanistan-no-way-civilians-can-get-past-taliban/ar-AANsZB1?ocid=msedgntp

    Keep it delusional, OHB.

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  30. JohnSF says:

    A few other excerpts.
    I’m going to make a few posts. Apologies for cluttering up the thread, but there are some points being made here.
    (Including, to translate from Parliamentary British: Is NATO still with a damn?
    Maybe we should start thinking about alternative arrangements?)

    (The ones I’ll quote are all respected MP’s, ex-ministers etc. not fringe figures or attention seekers. Though almost none of those were called by the Speaker. Which is unusual in itself)

    Theresa May:

    “We all understand the importance of American support but I do find it incomprehensible and worrying that the UK was not able to bring together an alternative alliance of countries to continue to provide the support necessary to sustain a government in Afghanistan.”

    Of course, the Nato presence was always going to end at some point in time. But the withdrawal when it came was due to be orderly, planned and on the basis of conditions. It has been none of these.
    What has been most shocking has been the chaos and speed of the takeover by the Taliban.
    In July this year, both President Biden and the prime minister indicated that they did not think the Taliban was ready or able to take over control of the country.

    Was our intelligence really so poor? Was our understanding of the Afghan government so weak? Was our knowledge of the position on the ground so inadequate? Or did we really believe this? Or did we feel we just had to follow the United States and hope that on a wing and a prayer it’d be all right on the night?

    Because the reality is that as long as this time limit was given and dates given for withdrawal, all the Taliban had to do was to ensure there were sufficient problems for the Afghan government not to be able to have full control of the country and then just sit and wait.

    All of our military personnel, all who served in Afghanistan should hold their heads high and be proud of what they achieved in that country over 20 years, of the change of lives they brought to the people of Afghanistan and the safety they brought here to the UK.

    The politicians sent them there, the politicians decided to withdraw, the politicians must be responsible for the consequences.”

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  31. JohnSF says:

    Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, Leader of the Opposition:

    “Nobody believes that Britain and our allies could have remained in Afghanistan indefinitely or that Britain could have fought alone. Nato leaders were put in a difficult position after President Trump agreed with the Taliban that all US forces would withdraw by May 2021.
    But that agreement was made in February 2020; 18 months ago.

    We have had 18 months to prepare and plan for the consequences of what followed, to plan and to prepare for the resettlement of refugees and those that have supported us, for supporting the Afghan government in managing the withdrawal, for securing international and regional pressure on the Taliban, and support for the Afghan government.
    The very problems we are confronting today in this debate were all known problems … and there has been a failure of preparation.
    What we’ve won through 20 years of sacrifice could all be lost. That is the cost of careless leadership.

    “What does retreat from freedom signal to those prepared to stand up for it? What does this surrender to extremism mean to those prepared to face it down?
    “And what does it mean for those nations who support an international rules-based system when we hand over power to those who recognise no rules at all?”

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  32. Andy says:

    @JohnSF:

    It’s a powerful speech, one that really should be watched.

    I have a great deal of empathy for him, his feelings, and his views, while at the same time disagreeing that more patience was needed.

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  33. JohnSF says:

    Dan Jarvis, Labour MP, Afghanistan veteran:

    “The Afghan soldiers I fought alongside were our brothers in arms”.
    “I shudder to think where those men are now. Many will be dead, others I know have considered themselves to be dead men walking.
    “Where were we in their hour of need? We were nowhere and that is shameful and it will have a very long-lasting impact on our reputation around the world.”
    We were nowhere. That is shameful. It will have a very long lasting impact on Britain’s reputation.”
    “It was particularly distasteful and dishonouring of President Biden to make reference to the lack of courage and commitment of those Afghan soldiers.”

    He says the UK has to think about what its next move should be.

    Lord Dannatt, the former head of the British Army:

    “The manner and timing of the Afghan collapse is the direct result of President Biden’s decision to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
    “At a stroke he has undermined the patient and painstaking work of the last five, 10, 15 years to build up governance in Afghanistan, develop their economy, transform their civil society and build up their security forces.”

    He said the only glimmer of hope was that the chance that the Taliban of 2021 was not the Taliban of 2001.

    Labour MP Chris Bryant:

    “If I’m honest I feel ashamed today, more ashamed than I can remember in any foreign policy debate in my 20 years in this House.”
    “It’s been the most sudden and catastrophic collapse of a foreign and military policy objective since Suez and you could argue further back.”
    “We have managed to humiliate ourselves. We have shamed our politics and our way of doing business. We have trailed the British flag and our own honour in the dirt and in the mud.”
    “I’m angry with the prime minister. I just do not think that he has paid enough attention to this issue. I don’t think he was courageous enough in what he said to the American president, either last year or this year. He should be ashamed of himself.”

    Hard to fully describe the degree of disappointment and anger at Biden. Both sides of the House united in condemnation of his speech. Not a single word of support I heard; and for Labour to be so hostile to a Democrat is very unusual.
    And all the comments from veteran MP’s confirm other indications: the British Army is spitting blood over this.

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  34. JohnMcC says:

    @JohnSF: I remember those emotions. I’m reminded by the echoes they left behind. My experience was in Viet Nam in ’66 so I have a little mileage on it. It’s based on survivor’s guilt. It is one of the ways that PTSD hurts you.

    You might never get over it but that business we call civilization (probably a misnomer)…. well, civilization keeps on going.

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  35. mattbernius says:

    To add to the complexity, it’s my lay-person’s understanding that while folks tend to talk about “The Taliban” as if it’s a monolithic group with a top-down leadership structure, the reality is that it’s much more of a confederation of allied groups. If correct, this means that controlling their behavior is also incredibly difficult due to the distributed nature of autonomy.

    If we take them at their word, the official stance might be “X,” but conditions on the ground can be much different.

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  36. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @keef: Somebody farted again.

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  37. Michael Reynolds says:

    @keef:
    If you don’t like it here, Drew slash Guarneri, why don’t you toddle on back to Dave’s dusty closet of misfit toys? Although I think at this point even Dave is rolling his eyes at your stupidity.

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  38. Andy says:

    @mattbernius:

    That’s a very good point.

    There is also the question of how disciplined Taliban fighters are, and how responsive they are to the chain of command. My expertise on Afghanistan has grown dated, so I do not know the answers to these questions, but it is certainly a worry that the leadership and Shura do not adequately control their own forces.

    And for a lot of us with some knowledge of Afghanistan and its history, 1841-42 loom large….

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  39. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JohnSF: Hard to fully describe the degree of disappointment and anger at Biden. Both sides of the House united in condemnation of his speech. Not a single word of support I heard; and for Labour to be so hostile to a Democrat is very unusual.
    And all the comments from veteran MP’s confirm other indications: the British Army is spitting blood over this.

    Funny how we never saw any of them pushing to fill the void. They have had months/year+ to step forward and they never did. It’s almost like they never really believed in it either but never had the balls to say as much. They were just waiting for somebody to blame.

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  40. JohnSF says:

    @JohnMcC:
    I’m fortunate and thankful not to have cause for that myself.

    My personal connection to the current sh*1show is that where I work, is the main training centre for UK military nursing staff, and some field medic specialists.
    So over the past twenty some years I’ve known quite a few coming or going from the war.
    Including some Afghans doing nursing training (only the one year, that programme got stopped for some reason). I hate to think what sort of situation they may in now.
    We screwed them over and need to get them out.

    So, sometimes this whole subject gets me a bit short tempered with some people.
    Starting with the Taliban, and working outward….

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  41. Andy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Funny how we never saw any of them pushing to fill the void. They have had months/year+ to step forward and they never did. It’s almost like they never really believed in it either but never had the balls to say as much. They were just waiting for somebody to blame.

    The UK stood by us for the entirety of this stupid war when they certainly didn’t have to. They spilled a lot of blood following our leadership and our foolish plans and goals. They have every right to be angry with us, especially here are at the end, which we, again, fucked up on. Particularly those who actually fought and sacrificed, had to bury their friends, and live through the psychological and moral horrors of war – they earned the right to be angry at how things have turned out.

    But yeah, they are the ones without any balls (nice sexist term there), unlike you bravely casting aspersions from the safety of your keyboard.

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  42. JohnSF says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    Which is precisely the reason for the condemnation of Johnson: he should have known what the situation was, and acted.
    If you believe that people like Tugendhat, Jarvis, Rory Stewart, Mercer, Dannat, are merely seeking to hypocritically shift the blame, all I can say is I disagree.

    Johnson, Raab, and Redwood, certainly are, the spineless shits, as is Mike Pompeo, for whom a special place in hell is reserved.
    But not those guys; or May, or Starmer, or Ellwood, or Davey, etc (or the Archbishop of Canterbury, for that matter: “The failure we face today is not military or diplomatic; they did all they could. It is political.”)

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  43. mattbernius says:

    @Andy:

    There is also the question of how disciplined Taliban fighters are, and how responsive they are to the chain of command.

    Excellent point as well.

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  44. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    We lived in Mpls when the Hmong were resettled there. Minnesotans being Minnesotans, the discrimination was more subtle, but evident.

    That matches mostly with my experience in Green Bay. Though… It may have been less because the Oneida and Menomonie were rather welcoming. I had a classmate in university who was one of the immigrants. He could sling 28-lb steel bricks on to an arbor, while hanging over a railing, and not make a sound. 5-foot nothing (not including the 4 inches of hair), and he’d pick up 200-lb sand bags on his own. Definitely respect the Hmong.

    I lived between “Little Asia” and “Little Mexico”. The Hmong were the best damn neighbors you could ask for–except on laundry day when half a dozen mothers would come in with clothing for the entire neighborhood and take over the laundromat for an entire afternoon. When you saw the mini-vans, just turn around and come back tomorrow. 🙂

    The Hmong have contributed greatly to a modern Minnesota.

    Madison has a very significant Hmong population (to the point that all school paperwork is in English, Spanish, and Hmong (of which, there are apparently two main variants).) and the manufacturing firm I work at has a very significant contingent. More Hmong than Mexicans here (and, for some reason, the Russians aren’t too far behind).

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  45. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mu Yixiao: Yes I’m familiar with the work done by Lutherans in all areas of social services. I contribute financially to them. Thanks for reminding me that I need to consult with my wallet about helping out again.

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  46. CSK says:

    According to the Russians, Ghani has alighted in Dubai.

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  47. JohnSF says:

    @mattbernius:
    @Andy:
    Seen some reports indicating that the Taliban units in Kabul are behaving with some restraint (at least on camera; also reports of door-to-door sweeps of some areas after “names on lists”)
    But that in other areas issues with the “more clan than Taliban” allies settling scores, and Pakistani Pushtun recruits (and possibly other foreigners) without local connections just looting.

    I suspect that ISI have strongly advised that if they have any sense, they’ll avoid an initial bloodbath.
    Also that Islamabad have very strongly advised against being dumb enough to play footsie with al Qaeda this time around: anti-India groups still welcome.

    Like the piccies of Talibs in the dodgem cars yesterday.
    Remind me of some Germans at a funfair carousel in Paris, 1940.
    “Such nice, polite, blond boys…”
    When a Talibs’s not engaged in his employment –
    (…his employment)
    Or maturing his murderous little plans -
    (…little plans)
    His capacity for innocent enjoyment –
    (…enjoyment)
    Is just as great as any other man’s –

    Also seeing some sketchy reports Vice-President Saleh and remnants of Afghan SF are making a fighting retreat to the Panshir Valley.

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  48. keef says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I realize that reality doesn’t sit well with OZH, nor you. Your circus………

    “THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT CANNOT ENSURE SAFE PASSAGE TO THE HAMID KARZAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT,” the US Embassy in Kabul told American citizens in a security alert today.

    Carry on.

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  49. Mikey says:

    Julian Borger
    @julianborger
    Ned Price @StateDeptSpox said that when the Biden admin took office there had been no SIV (special immigration visa) interviews with Afghans in Kabul since March 2020. Said interviews were back up and running within 2 weeks of taking office.

    So the Trump administration made a completely shitty deal with the Taliban in February 2020, and in March 2020 they just stopped the process to get Afghanis who had assisted us out safely.

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  50. JohnSF says:

    @Mikey:
    One of the reasons for some of the fury in the Commons today:
    Home Office had continued to bureaucratically p*ss about with asylum applications from Afghan interpreters etc till last couple of months.
    Foreign Office has not been much better by all accounts; until the emergency broke.
    No instruction from Ministers to speed things up.

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  51. Michael Reynolds says:

    @keef:

    I realize that reality doesn’t sit well with OZH, nor you.

    I realize this doesn’t sit well with you, Drew, but Trump lost. He reduced the force in Afghanistan to an untenable number. He told the Taliban and the world we were done with Afghanistan. He negotiated with the Taliban. And in his entire life he’s never been competent at managing anything. And he showed his consistent contempt for men in uniform.

    So shove your hypocrisy and dishonesty right up your fundament, you have nothing to contribute to this or any other forum. You’re a bore.

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  52. inhumans99 says:

    @keef:

    First, Michael asked this question of JKB, can you tell us who is the current elected President of the United States? I am just curious as to what your answer is.

    Next, what point are you trying to make? As Andy has mentioned over the past couple of days in threads like this one, we have a President that is stepping forward to take some political hits, it is also not like plenty of folks in the “mainstream” media are not already pointing out the failures but we are also seeing stories that show the current administration acting to try and improve the situation in places like Kabul. This is not a case where only Newsmax or OAN are the only media outlets “brave” enough to point out the flaws in how the current administration handled the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

    Also, please note that I noticed that you said US Gov in your post, and I also used “current administration” several times in my post, that is by design. I do not mention who is the head of the current administration in my reply because I am curious as to the name of the person that you understand to be the current Commander In Chief?

    If you loathe the current US Admin I would be happy to scrape together funds to get you a ticket to live in Russia, where you believe you would be free to be true to yourself (go live in Russia, put that thought to the test).

    Finally, there are a TON of other blogs where you can post comments like I hate the current admin and Kamala Drools, and girls have cooties and are icky (the same Admin. that still allows you the freedom to express your hatred of said Admin without fear of reprisal, but we will ignore that for now) and probably get 100 people to give you a thumbs up within minutes of your post, you have to know that OTB is not that type of site yet you insist on hanging out here.

    However, I am not a shrink so I will not try to figure that out on my own.

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  53. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Trump lost. He reduced the force in Afghanistan to an untenable number. He told the Taliban and the world we were done with Afghanistan. He negotiated with the Taliban.

    Trump let the leader of the Taliban out of an American prison, along with about 5,000 other Talibanis, as part of that negotiation. And we didn’t get much other than a relative quiet in which to prepare our exit (while the Taliban negotiated the surrender of the Afghan army in advance)

    Mullah Baradar thanks Donald Trump for his service.

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  54. Gustopher says:

    @keef:

    I realize that reality doesn’t sit well with OZH

    What’s an OZH? I don’t speak Wingnuttese and if I turn off the text alerts from my idiot brothers for a week or more (which I have done), I quickly cannot follow the “clever” nicknames.

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  55. CSK says:

    @Gustopher:
    Don’t hold me to this, but it may mean OzarkHillbilly.

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  56. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher:

    And we didn’t get much other than a relative quiet in which to prepare our exit

    That in standard FG fashion we wasted I would add. FG deciding not to process visas for ragh Afghanis is pretty standard, but we didn’t even work on getting us out during that time.

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  57. dazedandconfused says:

    Not much of a case made that it was fear of political backlash that delayed it. One cited article said they thought they had several more months to go. It’s plausible it was based on what the Right might say, but it’s not substantiated well at all. Am I missing something? The more likely cause seems to have been the assumption they had a lot more time to get the laws which made it illegal to ship people in without visas changed for Afghanistan. Aside from a few gadflies like Rand Paul and Boebart, I don’t recall any calls to keep the ones who helped us out from the Right.

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  58. Jax says:

    @CSK: It’s also a pretty (cough cough) high indication that Drew’s been into the brew, of some sort.

    Hard times for Drew and his ilk. It’s pretty hard to scream about “Why aren’t we saving the Afghani citizens who want out?!” and “We can’t let them foul our census or we’ll be replaced!” all in the same day. Nobody’s released that “talking point” yet, that I’ve seen.

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  59. dazedandconfused says:

    @Andy:
    Sobering, but Packer is living in his own private mental Idaho too:

    Says it the US government must…

    First, it must restore order outside the airport so that Afghans who have been offered seats can present their papers at a checkpoint, have them verified against an official list, and get through to the terminal. U.S. troops will likely have to take control of the main entry point to the airport, which means negotiating with the Taliban, who, for now, are trying to put a benign international face on their victory. If necessary, troops will have to face down the gunmen outside the airport. No doubt the risks of such a move would give Washington nightmares, but it’s otherwise hard to see how an evacuation can take place at all.

    Ofer cryin’ out loud, Mr. Packer. They only have to lob a few mortar shells into the airport to shut it down.

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  60. Kurtz says:

    @JohnSF:

    Mike Pompeo, for whom a special place in hell is reserved.

    Pssshh…He’s saved; God is on his side. Not the other way around.

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  61. Andy says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    They only have to lob a few mortar shells into the airport to shut it down.

    That’s the rub – the Taliban currently have a much better hand and are in a more advantageous position. What will we be willing to do – or not do – to get Americans and Afghans to the airport and out of the country?

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  62. dazedandconfused says:

    @Andy:

    Raises the question of what we would have to do to achieve full evac with a Taliban dedicated to stopping it. Retake Kabul in some way that prevents the Taliban from killing or moving the evacuees we are trying to save?

    They got us by the short ones.

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