Joe, You Are A Stubborn Old Man

I guess you proved your point about great powers picking and choosing their battlefields.

Dear Joe,

I hope you understand, in the extreme unlikelihood that you read this, that I am referring to you as “Joe” for a specific reason. It’s not because you like this form of faux familiarity. I’m just very angry with you right now, and it’s difficult to use the normal form of address. I believe in respecting the office and the occupant, which I still do. At the moment, however, it’s something with which I’m struggling.

We voted for you to not do stupid things. The former guy excelled in stupidity, both foreign and domestic. Embracing Putin. Alienating our allies. Abandoning the Kurds. Praising dictators. Overlooking the horrifying murder of a Washington Post employee by a foreign government. Withdrawing from the Paris Accords without even discussing an alternate way to address an existential crisis. And so on and so on. While we didn’t expect your foreign policy to dazzle, we expected, at least, a yeoman-like stewardship of the United States’ national interests. We expected that you would indeed hire the best people, in contrast to making that claim a punchline. We expected that you would listen to them.

We also knew that you had a strong preference for how to handle Afghanistan. When you were vice president, you pushed for a drone-centric strategy. Instead of relying on US and allied ground forces to fight the Taliban and other opponents, directly or as trainers and support personnel, you advocated bombing our enemies from the air. While I shared your skepticism for the much-ballyhooed “surge,” it was for very different reasons. I worried it would be a fatally misconceived quick fix, in a type of warfare (count me as one of those counterinsurgency nutballs) that requires patience and consistency.

When you took the oath of office in January, the situation in Afghanistan was surely deteriorating. However, there was no imminent collapse happening. There were still ways to disengage from Afghanistan better than we have. If you believe that a great power like the United States should pick and choose its wars, and this one was well past its shelf life, that’s a defensible position. But not this way, with an unnecessarily short and arbitrary deadline for both ourselves and our allies (remember them?).

So why did you do it? I suspect that you have a bee up your presidential butt about Afghanistan, as you did when you were Vice President. You were preparing to hear, or were already hearing, the national security establishment’s litany of reasons why the US could not withdraw. You probably felt that, unless you put your foot down, demanding an end to the American occupation by a particular date, there never would be a date. And you may still believe that drones can do a good enough job to keep threats to Americans at bay.

A full explanation of why this strategy is fatally flawed will require a different blog post (or more than one). For now, I want to keep the focus on your stubborn insistence on a too-soon arbitrary date. It helped the Taliban win, by demonstrating that the United States would abandon Afghans who had supported us. The midnight abandonment of Bagram made the Taliban’s argument hard to deny. So too did the hurried, slipshod evacuation from Kabul’s airport left in the lurch not just Americans, but orders of magnitude more Afghan soldiers, police, civil servants, workers in non-governmental organizations supporting our strategy, informers, and countless other classes of people now on a Taliban revenge list.

Millions of people in the United State, and countless more outside of it, have a deep respect for Malala Yousafzai, shot in the face by the Taliban, across the porous border in Pakistan. In Afghanistan, we have abandoned whatever meager protection we could have provided to millions of Malalas. While even a superpower cannot save everyone in the world, it does have moral obligations to protect whom we can. We failed at those obligations. Perhaps in your impatience to withdraw from Afghanistan, you convinced yourself that this was one of those occasions when we did not have any obligations, or they were muffled by exigent circumstances. The panicked and often heroic efforts to save Afghans was the moment when, perhaps, we all saw that the United States should not operate as an amoral, Realpolitik-driven power, concerned only with the crudest form of self-interest, lethal attacks on our citizens. (Of course, we utterly failed at that last week, and will likely again before this botched evacuation reaches its conclusion.)

Afghanistan never presented us with good choices. The brute facts, such as the Afghan military budget exceeding its GNP, were impossible to deny. Your decision was far from the best among bad choices. Not only has it damaged our foreign policy, but in the current US domestic politics, you have by extension imperiled important goals to be achieved at home. Why give the people opposed to voting protections, vaccination during a pandemic, or many other topics way more urgent than withdrawal from Afghanistan another way to undermine you, and harm the citizens who depend on you?

But you provided your point. We are a great power that can choose when and where it fights. The people at the helm can also make very bad, counter-productive decisions about how to follow that principle.

P.S. Please stop invoking your son in future public statements about Afghanistan. We all know his name, and his service. The moment when people who are nameless to us are in grave danger, or are already dead, because of our mistakes, is not the right time for that invocation.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Blogosphere, ,
Kingdaddy
About Kingdaddy
Kingdaddy is returning to political blogging after a long hiatus. For several years, he wrote about national security affairs at his blog, Arms and Influence, under the same pseudonym. He currently lives in Colorado, where he is still awestruck at all the natural beauty here. He has a Ph.D in political science that is oddly useful in his day job.

Comments

  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    Oh? And how pray tell would you have done it?

    Should we have casually snuck a few dozen C-17s into Kabul airport without anyone noticing?

    Should we have begun planning for where to put a couple hundred thousand refugees while the Afghan army was in the field? While the Afghan government was still in power? You think maybe that would have set off a panic?

    How would you have dealt with the Taliban attacks that would have come from a refusal to honor what they rightfully saw as a US government commitment? They don’t know Trump was a buffoon, they thought he was POTUS.

    Should we have held onto Bagram with the 2500 guys Trump left? Or should we have surged again? And if we had held onto Bagram, how would fleeing Afghans have safely covered the 7 miles from Kabul?

    At what date would crowds of desperate people not have rushed to escape and thus present targets of opportunity to terrorists?

    I initially agreed that this was a fuck-up, but the more I looked at the ‘how’ and the ‘when’ and the ‘under what circumstances’ it became increasingly clear that there was no way to avoid this deadly ending. Compare this to the end of any other lost war in history.

    WTF did all the people calling for an end to ‘forever wars’ think was going to happen when we left? “Joe” made the right decision and carried it out about as well as could be realistically hoped.

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  2. Mikey says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    And if we had held onto Bagram, how would fleeing Afghans have safely covered the 7 miles from Kabul?

    Bagram is 40 miles from Kabul.

    Which only reinforces your point. Trying to protect hordes of Afghans and Americans moving down that road would have been impossible. We’d be losing hundreds a day.

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  3. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I will disagree with you on the part about the Taliban not knowing that FG was a buffoon; they just realized that the fact of POTUS being a buffoon presented an opportunity too unique to let go unused.

    Still, the answer to the riddle of how to get out of the briar patch (whether it be named Afghanistan, Vietnam, Syria, or somewhere else–anybody up to building a nation in Myanmar, for example) in a moral, principled, and dignified manner is to not go in the briar patch to begin with. Or don’t leave, but we’ve already agreed that don’t leave was as untenable as what we ended up doing.

    (And FG was planning to go back in May by simply leaving the keys on the dresser based on our best understandings of his “planning.”)

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  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mikey:
    Bagram is 40 miles from Kabul.

    Jesus. Where did I get seven? Hundreds, even thousands of buses full of people on a 40 mile trip is the kind of thing that gets a terrorist IED-maker wet.

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Point taken. Of course they knew Trump was an idiot.

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  5. Gustopher says:

    While even a superpower cannot save everyone in the world, it does have moral obligations to protect whom we can. We failed at those obligations.

    We evacuated 70,000 last I checked.

    Just checked: Reuters reports 113,000 between us and our allies.

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  6. Sleeping Dog says:

    Kingdaddy, you’re unhappy with the proceeding, as are we all for differing reasons. But a clean, efficient, all encompassing withdrawal of US and allied nationals, as well as, hundreds of thousands of Afghani’s that want to leave is a plot for a Garcia Marquez novel. You’ve fallen into the fallacy that many of those critical of Biden have, staying longer would… Short of massively reinforcing the US troops on the ground and many future casualties, there was no way the US could stay.

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  7. Scott F. says:

    Why give the people opposed to voting protections, vaccination during a pandemic, or many other topics way more urgent than withdrawal from Afghanistan another way to undermine you, and harm the citizens who depend on you?

    Oh, for the love of God, can we just stop with this crap? A people who will self-administer veterinary medications in order to undermine Biden and the people who so much as accept him as the legitimate President NEVER need be given an excuse.

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  8. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Mikey:

    Bagram is 40 miles from Kabul.

    40 miles along a highway that we’ve never actually had control of THE ENTIRE 20 YEARS WE’VE BEEN THERE.

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  9. Stormy Dragon says:

    For now, I want to keep the focus on your stubborn insistence on a too-soon arbitrary date.

    If you announce an extension, the evacuation will expand to fill the remaining time. And the reality is that unless we’re prepared to reoccupy Kabul, we don’t control what the last day we’ll be able to stay is.

    So delaying the deadline would INCREASE the chance of people getting left behind if we’re forced to leave before we want.

    Better to stick to the plan of finishing on the agreed to deadline, and then if conditions allow additional time we can get more out, but we can’t count on additional time.

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  10. Raoul says:

    IMO Biden has handled the whole Afghanistanian situation just about perfectly and I for one I’m glad he is there for it. It really took a lot of courage to do what he did and he feels the need to invoke the death of his son so be it, I don’t understand that particular objection. The way I see it, everything that has happened in that godforsaken country the last month has confirmed the need for an expeditious withdrawal. The reason for us to be there not only has expired but it is now counterproductive.

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  11. Crusty Dem says:

    This whole post is so full of overwrought drama and ridiculous wishful thinking that it takes me back to 2 main phrases from the early-mid aughts:
    1) The next 6 months are critical to our success
    2) And a pony

    You want to re-up on another trillion dollars and 2000 dead soldiers to continue to fail in Afghanistan for another decade? No thanks.

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  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Joe Biden had the balls to do what none of his 3 predecessors would. It was always going to be messy. He knew it and he did it anyway. Could he have done this that or the other a little bit better? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, I’m not going to 2nd guess him because he got the big decision right and I doubt very much anybody else could have executed it any better.

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  13. Kingdaddy says:

    If I didn’t make it clear, I don’t think that the status quo could have been sustained, or should have been sustained. Glib comments like “another trillion dollars and 2000 dead soldiers” are missing the point. I’m not arguing with the need to end our involvement in Afghanistan. It’s how we did it that really deserves heavy criticism.

    Nor did I say that we could save everyone. We could have saved more. Making that argument isn’t ipso facto devolving into magical realism (which I take as the point of the reference to Marquez). We could have avoided the humiliation of something that made the US withdrawal from South Vietnam look orderly in comparison. (Did we depend on the NVA for perimeter security at the airport?)

    The field of comments is filled with straw men. This withdrawal could have been done a lot better.

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  14. gVOR08 says:

    Kingdaddy, this really is disappointing from you. It’s pure Green Lantern. Especially disappointing after we’ve pulled out over 100,000 people with Biden’s plan.

    ETA – you commented while I was typing. HOW could this have been done better?

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  15. Gustopher says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    We could have avoided the humiliation of something that made the US withdrawal from South Vietnam look orderly in comparison.

    How many people did we get out of Vietnam?

    And how many after the South Vietnamese government fell?

    I don’t think Vietnam was as orderly as you are implying. (Although, due to geography, there will be no boat people leaving Afghanistan)

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  16. Joe says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I agree entirely. I also think from a simple political calculation, by the midterms these stories are going to be old news, just like January 6. This band aid needed to be ripped off and it was always going to cost human lives. But Biden ripped it off when his 3 predecessors did not.

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  17. Mikey says:

    @Gustopher: From the Wiki on the fall of Saigon:

    The U.S. State Department estimated that the Vietnamese employees of the U.S. Embassy in South Vietnam, past and present, and their families totaled 90,000 people. In his testimony to Congress, Ambassador Martin asserted that 22,294 such people were evacuated by the end of April.

    So we got about 25% of those who had worked for us, and their families, out of Vietnam.

    It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what likely happened to the rest.

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  18. wr says:

    @Kingdaddy: I am a great respecter of your writing and thinking, and so I am greatly disappointed to see you write:

    “We could have avoided the humiliation of something that made the US withdrawal from South Vietnam look orderly in comparison. (Did we depend on the NVA for perimeter security at the airport?)”

    And then immediately follow it up with:

    “The field of comments is filled with straw men.”

    I was going to say you can’t drop a ludicrous comparison like this and then complain about people making straw-man arguments, but of course you can — you just did. It’s merely beneath you.

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  19. Gustopher says:

    If the Afghan government held on for another year or so after we left, our departure would have been more orderly, I suppose.

    But given that no one expected the government to last long term (it was a corrupt government that actually had less support than a religious theocracy), would an additional year or two of fighting before the Afghan government collapsed be better for the assorted Afghani peoples than a quick fall, a hundred thousand escaping and then (hopefully) an oppressive peace?

    Maybe we could have done the nation building better during the last two decades — partition along ethnic lines, eagerly and aggressively prosecute corruption in the governments, and then give the regions the option to combine into one government or not.

    (Do we care how many Afghanistan’s there are? Not really… a partition has refugee problems, but we could help get people where they want to be… at the very least it’s something we haven’t tried)

    But the government we created from the various warlords was so corrupt and capricious that the people didn’t think it represented them or even that it could be depended on.

    But that’s all speculative. What’s a historical example of a better withdrawal?

    And it’s not Vietnam. Unless you like our people being shot at while leaving, discarding all our allies, and a flotilla of boat people)

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  20. JohnMcC says:

    @Gustopher: You missed all the C-17s being pushed off of carrier decks in the Persian Gulf! Of course it was worse than Saigon! It was the worst thing in the world. Since the Younger Dryas, for sure. Or maybe Pompei.

    Not a really really terrible original post. But close. At least make your historical analogies reasonable to anyone with a memory.

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  21. Stormy Dragon says:

    PS – Kingdaddy, you owe Biden an apology:

    U.S. announces joint arrangement to continue evacuating Afghan allies past Aug. 31

    The United States, along with 97 other countries, announced Sunday that they had reached an agreement with the Taliban to allow them to continue to get Afghan allies out of the country after the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.

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  22. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Helicopters.

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  23. JohnSF says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Holding Bagram would not have required a “surge” on the scale of 2009 when it went from 30,000 to 100,000.
    That was done in order to attempt to assert control over the southern provinces.
    Dominating the Kabul region including Bagram would require a fraction of that.

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  24. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    The panic had begun when the Doha Agreement was signed; it became terminal when President Biden insisted he would honour it.

    From that point on, any moves that signaled impending catastrophe would have had little effect on the reality that the catastrophe was already unfolding.

    Once the dam is breaking, and everyone can see the water coming over the breach a mile away, there is little point pretending it isn’t on the grounds that it’s bad for morale.

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  25. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @JohnMcC:

    Not trying to be pedantic, but there is no way in this universe that you’re going to land a C17 on a carrier, least of all on the Kitty Hawk, Enterprise, and Forrestal class carriers that were in operation at the time. Think maybe you meant to refer to helos.

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  26. David S. says:

    Out of curiosity, Kingdaddy, how much have you actually donated to Malala’s foundation? Since you’re castigating someone for invoking names to make emotional appeals in order to justify their position, I mean.

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  27. Mike in Arlington says:

    @HarvardLaw92: I think John McC was being facetious. I think his point is that our evacuation from Afghanistan is incredibly more effective and orderly than the evacuation of Saigon. It’s why he mentioned the C17s landing in the Persian gulf.

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  28. Michael Cain says:

    Nope. No more b*llsh*t. It’s the end of January, you’re the boss, 2,500 troops (of various sorts, not all combat) on the ground, Bagram and the embassy. Your predecessor has promised all the troops will be out by May 1, the Taliban have agreed to quit targeting US personnel because of that promise. The State Department position as of the day before you’re the boss is that no more than a few thousand Afghans need to be extracted. To the best of our knowledge, neither the civilian nor the military intelligence have given you a clue that the Afghan military is 12 months into an 18-month surrender/stand down to the Taliban.

    You have a brilliant plan that would extract more than 120,000 with 13 US military fatalities. We would all love to hear it.

    It goes w/o saying that in a few weeks, when this is done, I will be demanding resignations from a whole bunch of intelligence people, civilian and military.

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  29. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Cain:
    – Hold Bagram.
    – Inform the (various factions that make up the alliance we call the) Taliban that if they step up their attacks, the response will be massively disproportionate.
    – Announce (in an entirely unconnected way) that the US is negotiating with India on a defence technology transfer agreement including ballistic missile defence systems.
    – Instigate sanctions on certain persons suspected of involvement in drugs and armaments trading.
    – Relocate as much of the Afghan Army as possible from the untenable outposts to potentially securable zones/provinces north of Kabul.
    – Privately inform the ministers and generals of Afghanistan that if they fail to co-operate in this matter, they will get left on the runway, with their bank accounts emptied.

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  30. JohnSF says:

    I would ask a lot of people here:
    If these events had taken place in the second term of Trump, what would your responses have been?

    There are a lot of non-Americans, who have no reason to disparage President Biden, who think that the abandoning of Bagram, and the failure to respond to the predictable and predicted collapse of the Afghan military and governmental positions as a consequence of Doha, were foolish. (Albeit the government position was already up sh*t creek).

    And that President Biden failed to consult allies in this matter.
    Many have been ready enough to criticize Trump for his damage to alliance relations.
    Look at the reactions of European governments and politicians, including pro-American centrists like Macron, or Starmer, etc etc
    Are you now going to pivot to “Euros? F’ them!” just like the Trumpkins?

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  31. Crusty Dem says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    Your entire post is a strawman. “Do it better”. How?? Some of us have been complaining about this since 2002 when Afghanistan became a secondary issue. We still spent untold blood and money doing jack shit. So now Biden, in 2021, after 20 years of stagnation and failure, says “no more” but you, with no solutions whatsoever, say “this isn’t what I wanted!!” If you have specifics, feel free to clarify, otherwise you’re no different than every RW nutjob whining that they wanted a perfect pro-democracy Afghanistan.

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  32. Scott O says:

    @JohnSF:
    “ Helicopters.”
    Have people line up in Kabul to get on a helicopter to Bagram instead of a plane out of Kabul? I don’t get it.

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  33. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Mike in Arlington:

    Ah, I see that angle now, and agree. My error and apologies.

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  34. Teve says:

    @Crusty Dem: I sympathize with Kingdaddy’s nonsense post, because I’ve said a few gibberish things myself.

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  35. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    I’d argue that Joe did the best he could with the hand he was dealt. Not perfect, no. But no one before him did anything better. Cracker and I used hear my grandmother say, “remember what happened to the last man who walked on water… And he had to cross his ankles because the Romans were short a nail.”

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  36. JohnSF says:

    @Scott O:
    If (big if) you have control of the Kabul urban area and Bagram, you can fly planes out of KIA, and helicopter transit people to Bagram, or to run other flights out of there.
    There are also other helicopter and light aircraft fields in the area that could be used as staging.
    If you are thinking about end-state evacuation.

    But, true, if you are assuming a Taliban controlled Kabul, your position is not much improved.
    But, if US had not abandoned Bagram, there was a reasonable possibility to set up a temporary perimeter around the upper Kabul valley.

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  37. JohnSF says:

    @Scott O:
    @JohnSF:
    The larger thing is: if you can control the greater Kabul basin zone, you don’t need to be so concerned about the Taliban controlling the perimeter of your airfield.

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  38. Crusty Dem says:

    @Teve:

    It’s really easy to say things are fucked up and even easier to say “A full explanation of why this strategy is fatally flawed will require a different blog post”.

    I actually have sympathy – and frankly my angry tone comes 97% from him telling Joe Biden what he is/is not allowed to do with invoking his son. That’s some bullshit, particularly when it follows an emotional plea to “doing right by the Malala Yousafzai’s of Afghanistan”. I would say that anyone that has a path that fixes the wrongs done to Afghan women, AND eliminates the attacks on American troops and refugees, AND doesn’t involve another decade or two of military intervention should go ahead and share those details as soon as possible…

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  39. JohnSF says:

    @Crusty Dem:
    So your trade off:
    Anything that fixes the wrongs is just fine, so long as it does not involve any American interventions.
    Maybe the next time the US tries to sign up allies it should ask them to read the small print: “Invalid after x years, y casualties, z dollars. Please sign here.”

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  40. Gustopher says:

    @JohnSF:

    the predictable and predicted collapse of the Afghan military and governmental positions

    There is reporting that it caught the Taliban off guard, as well as the US.

    As far as consulting the allies, what the f-ck did they think “we’re leaving by August 31st” was, a joke? The policy of the US government since Doha has been that we were bugging out, and the Taliban promised to target someone else in the meantime.

    This cannot have been a surprise — we were down to 2,500 personnel. 2,500 personnel means less than that number of soldiers, and it means we aren’t holding shit.

    I understand that the Brits do like an empire, and that they were very willing to fight to the last American.

    We weren’t preventing the Brits from bringing in more of their own troops, were we? Doha was negotiated well over a year ago, plenty of time to staff up the Brit occupation. Would have been a dumb as hell policy, but I don’t think we were working to prevent it.

    If these events had taken place in the second term of Trump, what would your responses have been?

    I would be shocked that Trump bothered to try to get any Afghans out. And that we weren’t indiscriminately bombing the countryside and cities after 13 people got killed and made him look bad.

    And, I would admit that while I don’t like it, it’s the least worst policy going forward. “Bring the troops home” was basically the only good Trump policy, and he probably would have fucked up the execution disastrously.

    It’s an awkward withdrawal, but 113,500 people evacuated is pretty good given the circumstances.

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  41. Gustopher says:

    @JohnSF:

    Maybe the next time the US tries to sign up allies it should ask them to read the small print: “Invalid after x years, y casualties, z dollars. Please sign here.”

    Yeah, allies should assume we aren’t committing to more than one generation of soldiers.

    I’m sorry your forever war wasn’t literally forever.

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  42. JohnSF says:

    @Gustopher:
    “Why this is the forever war, nor are you out of it.”
    Do you really think that leaving Afghanistan means you are out?
    You may not be interested in Forever War, but Forever War is interested in you.

    more than one generation of soldiers.

    So, one generation.
    What is that in years, exactly?
    Someone, at some point, might like to know, if the US is interested in their partnership.
    Because they might want to be aware that at year n+1 they are screwed.

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  43. Scott O says:

    @JohnSF: “ If (big if) you have control of the Kabul urban area and Bagram, you can fly planes out of KIA, and helicopter transit people to Bagram, or to run other flights out of there.”

    Sorry if I sound unnecessarily argumentative but I still don’t get it. If (big if) we had control of Kabul why would we need Bagram?

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  44. JohnSF says:

    test@Gustopher:
    Personally, I would have been inclined to commit.
    But that’s just me, in a bad mood.
    This would, however, have been a quixotic gesture.
    Because of the history of military commitments (and our lack of expenditure, of late) the UK, and the European nations generally, do not have the capacity in strategic airlift, tactical air strike capacity, military contractor logistics etc. to step in to the breach.
    (Though we might ask you for full control of Diego Garcia. Oopsie.)
    The US is the hegemonic superpower.
    In part by default.
    UK forces could have operated in Kabul for a perio: but we just don’t have the intercontinental logistics and weapon/targeting systems to sustain.

    I understand that the Brits do like an empire, and that they were very willing to fight to the last American.

    Don’t be absurd.
    Do you seriously think that the UK wants to control Afghanistan?

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  45. Jim Brown 32 says:

    This thread is just more evidence that its not about what…but who.

    Zero of the commenters here would be defending POTUSs actions here if their name were Trump instead of Biden.

    BIDEN screwed this up by going against sound advice. Just admit the guy screwed up and move on. You can’t credibly be critical of Trumpkins when you behave like them when its convenient.

    Again, the optics were avoidable, period. Anyone a degree or two of separation from the people that planned the options knows this. Biden chose the options MOST likely to result in chaos. This is not even up for debate–except by people on a steady diet of cable news. He gambled and came up snake eyes.

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  46. JohnSF says:

    @Scott O:
    Because it’s a package: if you have control of Bagram, you have a base for air and artillery dominance of the entire Kabul area.
    May be able to set up a temporary perimeter around the “greater Kabul” area.
    May not be so dependent on having to play nice with the Taliban.
    It would be possible, if controlling the Kabul area, to fly the heavy aircraft out of KIA and Bagram.
    While helicopters could move people out from the relatively congested area of KIA to the huge spaces at Bagram; and also use the other small airfields in the Kabul area.

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  47. DeD says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    Glib comments like “another trillion dollars and 2000 dead soldiers” are missing the point.

    No, Kingdaddy; that is EXACTLY the point.

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  48. Gustopher says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    BIDEN screwed this up by going against sound advice. Just admit the guy screwed up and move on. You can’t credibly be critical of Trumpkins when you behave like them when its convenient.

    113,000 people evacuated to date.

    It looked like a complete clusterfuck on the day the Afghan government collapsed, and I said so.

    Either appearances were deceiving, or we pulled things around. 113,000 out is impressive as hell.

    There are still problems — processing of special immigrant visas for our translators was screwed up by the prior administration, and the Biden administration has not made fixing that a priority, so we don’t know where this mass of refugees is going to go.

    What constitutes a good way to lose a war? What metrics are you using?

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  49. Gustopher says:

    @JohnSF: when the kids shipping out for war can get some last minute nookie with their wives, and then nine months later have those kids get born, and then 18 years later they go off to fight the same war…

    18 years, 9 months.

    That seems like plenty of time to do whatever the hell we were going to do in Afghanistan. Honestly, it’s been pretty clear for the last 15 that we were just kicking the can down the road, one day for every day we were there. For the past 10 years bin Laden has been dead.

    The average length of a marriage is 8.2 years in the US. If the Afghan war was a marriage, it beat the odds by a factor of two.

    If we can’t leave now, when can we leave?

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  50. Ken_L says:

    Strange how the author of the post is angry. That’s exactly how it made me feel when I read it.

    There were still ways to disengage from Afghanistan better than we have.

    The mindless assertion of every hack pundit in America, who knows it must be true because all the hack pundits are saying so.

    Last April, America told people to get out of Afghanistan. “It sent increasingly ominous warnings (even with offers to pay for airfare out of the country) beginning on April 17 and following on May 15, May 17, June 8, June 28, July 15, July 20, Aug. 7 and Aug. 12.” Despite this, it staged an extraordinary evacuation exercise once the Ghani government and army deserted. To date, more than 120,000 people have been flown out by NATO.

    The author thinks, for unexplained reasons, America was obliged to risk its soldiers’ lives to rescue “Afghan soldiers, police, civil servants, workers in non-governmental organizations supporting our strategy, informers, and countless other classes of people now on a Taliban revenge list.” Why? Why should Americans fight and die to rescue people who were given 20 years to take control of their country, and failed miserably?

    I’ve no idea who wrote this, but it’s the kind of lunatic magical thinking that has caused so much misery in the world since the USA decided to prop up a bunch of Catholic fascists in Saigon because allowing South Vietnam to fall to the Comintern would see other Asian countries topple over like dominoes. It’s as if some Americans have learned fken nothing from their own history.

    Yes, damn right I’m angry.

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  51. Ken_L says:

    @Gustopher: My bet on what historians will find:

    – The intelligence agencies did their job, and briefed Biden that nobody could predict with confidence what would happen once US troops started to pull out. As competent professionals, they offered a range of scenarios together with associated probabilities.
    – Ghani government and army hanging on until 2022 was the highest probability, although far from a sure thing. Total collapse within weeks was a 15-20% chance, but with the rider that the less confidence NATO showed in the government, the higher the probability it would disintegrate within weeks.
    – Biden decided to go all out publicly for the best option, but instructed the Pentagon to prepare contingency plans for the others.
    – A day or two of chaos in Kabul was completely unavoidable while the “immediate collapse” contingency plan was activated.

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  52. wr says:

    @Jim Brown 32: “BIDEN screwed this up by going against sound advice. ”

    You keep telling us how you and your buddies knew exactly how to pull this off without even a scuff mark, and that everything would be great if only the upper echelons had done the right thing and listened to you.

    Which is basically the siren song of every middle manager in every large organization in the world.

    I suppose it could be true that you and your buddies really are the genuises you claim. But I’d be more convinced if you stopped saying “they should have done what we said” and actually told us what this perfect plan was.

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  53. wr says:

    @Jim Brown 32: “This is not even up for debate–except by people on a steady diet of cable news. ”

    Oh, and cable news — even MSNBC — has featured a steady stream of those responsible for the last twenty years explaining how Biden came along and screwed up their perfect plans. Cable news is on your side.

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  54. Crusty Dem says:

    @JohnSF:

    I literally said nothing about “no American interventions”, but you do you. I will say that an endless intervention with no exit plan is always going to turn out badly.

    Maybe the next time the US tries to sign up allies it should ask them to read the small print: “Invalid after x years, y casualties, z dollars. Please sign here.”

    Do you really think any US ally is so dumb as to believe that x, y, and z are infinite? And if so, do you think “we will fight an endless war” encourages our allies to join us??

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  55. @JohnSF:

    I would ask a lot of people here:
    If these events had taken place in the second term of Trump, what would your responses have been?

    I think that, without a doubt, the response would not have been charitable. I will have to admit, in all intellectual honesty, I am sure my personal response would have been to assume that the incompetence of the Trump administration was directly on display while I think there is little doubt that my assumption of greater competence in the Biden administration tempered my response to actual events.

    (And I say all of that acknowledging that leaving Afghanistan was one of the policies that Trump initiated that I supported, at least in terms of the end goal–his deal with the Taliban, however, was concerning).

    Indeed, this situation provides, I would argue, a good test for a little self-reflection for all of us as to the degree to which partisan filters allow us to rationalize support or to spark indignation as an initial response to events. (At a minimum, ask yourself how much you find yourself seeking arguments to defend your side when you would have been seeking out argument to criticize the other).

    I have a hard time thinking a lot of the regular denizens of this space would have given the Trump administration the same level of benefit of the doubt as they are now giving the Biden administration.

    I haven’t written about this issue (or, really, any issue) as much as I would have liked due to a very busy time at work, and I am still thinking about it. (So, more later, I expect).

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  56. Mikey says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I have a hard time thinking a lot of the regular denizens of this space would have given the Trump administration the same level of benefit of the doubt as they are now giving the Biden administration.

    I know I wouldn’t, but to be fair, the assumption of incompetence on the part of the Trump administration is supported by years of evidence. Still, it may well be that no President would have seen a different outcome.

    I still believe it is too early to judge whether what Biden did diverged significantly from what he should have done.

    I did see a report in the WaPo this weekend that indicated a major turning point (for the worse) was actually the sudden departure of Ashraf Ghani. The Taliban were on the outskirts of Kabul, but were not entering. SecState Blinken worked out a deal to keep Ghani in Kabul, and the Taliban out, as arrangements were made for handing over government to them. But Ghani was told–erroneously, it turns out–that they were entering the city and would seek him out, so he fled. It was so sudden that some of his staff didn’t know until they returned from lunch to find his office empty. Had he stayed, the situation could have been very different.

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  57. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    This withdrawal could have been done a lot better.

    Just like all the other worthless criticism…it didn’t have to be this bad, but you fail to say how it could have been done better.
    I’ve been trying to think of a government collapse that has been neat and orderly…so far I am unable to find one.

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  58. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I have a hard time thinking a lot of the regular denizens of this space would have given the Trump administration the same level of benefit of the doubt as they are now giving the Biden administration.

    If Biden had initiated this on his own then I think I would be critical. But you cannot ignore the role that Trump had in this. He surrendered Afghanistan to the Taliban and left Biden with a choice; get out, or escalate.
    I for one am not interested in seeing escalation.
    Now, could this have been handled better? I’m open to that argument, but to date I haven’t seen anyone, including this post, posit a real argument explaining how.

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  59. Zachriel says:

    Military power comes from mobility and flexibility. Roman soldiers were equipped with shovels, and they built roads wherever they went. Along those roads, Rome could “go where they please and strike where they please.” The Mongols conquered much of the world, because they had the Steppes which allowed them to mass their forces anywhere across Eurasia, from Hungary to Manchuria, to “go where they please and strike where they please.” The English had the seas, and built a great colonial empire, because they could “go where they please and strike where they please.” The Americans had air power, and knit the world together in trade, because they could “go where they please and strike where they please.”

    When these great powers allowed themselves to be bogged down, they lost their advantage of mobility. The enemy could study their weaknesses, could disperse when attacked, and strike at soft targets, wearing them down. The enemy had the mobility, not the great power. Roman roads, which had given the Romans their power, led the invaders straight to Rome itself.

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  60. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JohnSF:
    Helicopters? To move a few hundred thousand people? From what staging areas? How secure would those be? And BTW, last I checked, you can knock a helicopter down with an RPG>

    And hold Bagram? With 2500 guys? You see how big Bagram is? Do you recognize that Trump’s 2500 are not all combat soldiers and that’s a pretty thin perimeter you’re talking about? As for how I’d feel if this were Trump? I’d ask him WTF he was doing agreeing to release 5000 enemy combatants while leaving half that many US soldiers behind to deal with them.

    Bush, Obama and Trump are the presidents to blame. Joe is trying to clean up after their failure. Gee, sorry, if having been handed an impossible situation he didn’t quite manage a pristine miracle evacuation.

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  61. Mikey says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Gee, sorry, if having been handed an impossible situation he didn’t quite manage a pristine miracle evacuation.

    The Onion nails it, as usual: Nation Stunned That 20-Year Catastrophe Could End So Catastrophically

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  62. @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    But you cannot ignore the role that Trump had in this.

    And I would not suggest we should ignore it.

    But I am specifically pointing out the degree to which we are all willing to rationalize when it is “our” side and to go directly to harsh criticism when it is “theirs.”

    I just think it is worth thinking about, apart from whatever analysis of the situation one is engaging in.

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  63. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    I can only respond with my own history; I was critical of Obama’s surge, and I was critical of Trump’s surrender.
    And as I said, I’m willing to consider that Biden could have done this better — just as soon as someone explains, in concrete terms, how. Just saying that it could have been better is not valid criticism.

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  64. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mikey:
    Hah! I had just posted that on today’s thread.

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  65. Zachriel says:

    @Ken_L: – Ghani government and army hanging on until 2022 was the highest probability, although far from a sure thing. Total collapse within weeks was a 15-20% chance, but with the rider that the less confidence NATO showed in the government, the higher the probability it would disintegrate within weeks.

    This is the most likely story. Even then, if Ghani hadn’t quit Kabul, it’s quite possible the city would have held on long enough for negotiations for an orderly transition, and with some guarantees for the safety of those left behind. (Ghani got snookered.)

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  66. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    I’m just not seeing anyone come up with a better plan for getting out of Afghanistan. A lot of people with a lot of criticism, not a lot of realistic alternatives.

    Look at it this way: everyone who has ever planned a wedding and had it all work out perfectly, raise your hand. Multiply wedding planning by a thousand and add explosives.

    Cutting Joe slack is reasonable given that a) the table had already been set by Bush, Obama and Trump, and b) Joe has only been in office for seven months, and c) we nevertheless have evacuated virtually all Americans who want to go, plus about 100k locals.

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  67. @Michael Reynolds:

    I’m just not seeing anyone come up with a better plan for getting out of Afghanistan.

    I don’t disagree, but that is in no way my point (indeed, it is wholly irrelevant to my point).

    Can you honestly say you’d have cut Trump slack for the exact same outcome?

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  68. @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Just saying that it could have been better is not valid criticism.

    Like I said to MR above, that’s not the point and, really, is beside the point.

    Surely we all have enough imagination to envision an alternative version of history in which Afghan civilians fall from a C-130 as chaos reigns in Kabul after the government collapsed during the Trump administration’s second term and this place is on fire with how incompetent the Trump administration is.

    And then keef shows up and points out “just saying that it could have been better is not valid criticism” and how well that would’ve gone over.

    He would be right, but I don’t think he would have gotten much sympathy for that assertion under those alternative parameters.

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  69. Kingdaddy says:

    I’m just not seeing anyone come up with a better plan for getting out of Afghanistan. A lot of people with a lot of criticism, not a lot of realistic alternatives.

    A couple of options we haven’t discussed:

    A later deadline, still before the end of the year. Provide more time to work out the details of evacuating both Americans and Afghans. Give time for a more quiet evacuation of some Afghans, instead of the mad dash for the airport. Provide more time to coordinate with allies. Take that extra time to improve the process of allowing Afghans entry to the US and other countries.

    Don’t evacuate Bagram first. Some, not all, of the people (particularly US personnel) might have been evacuated from there, instead of the civilian airport.

    Have a larger perimeter around Kabul’s airport.

    Do a better job of explaining the reasons for withdrawing now. The argument that we need to honor the Trump/Pompeo promises to the Taliban fell flat on its face. A better argument would have been based on a deteriorating security situation. Don’t even mention Trump, except maybe to say, “People on the other side of the aisle agree that the situation in Afghanistan isn’t sustainable…”

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  70. @Kingdaddy:

    Give time for a more quiet evacuation of some Afghans, instead of the mad dash for the airport.

    Honest question: is this a reasonable ask? That is, my perception of events is that the reason there was a mad dash was that the collapse of the ANA and Ghani’s exit was not anticipated (nor was the rapid movement of the Taliban on Kabul).

    In other words: was not the reason for the mad dash the lack of knowledge that the mad dash would be needed? (I just feel like there is a Catch-22 to all of this).

    I do think that a major problem is that so many Afghans had been trying to get out for years and were bureaucratically blocked from doing so.

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  71. wr says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: “Can you honestly say you’d have cut Trump slack for the exact same outcome?”

    I can’t. But that’s not just partisanship. During his time in office, Trump proved that he was incompetent as a manager — perhaps we can use Covid as an example — and thus he had lost the benefit of the doubt. So far Biden has appeared to be a pretty good manager — let’s use the vaccine rollout as our example.

    I don’t think this is unfair at all.

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  72. wr says:

    @Kingdaddy: “The argument that we need to honor the Trump/Pompeo promises to the Taliban fell flat on its face.”

    I don’t understand. Are you saying this isn’t true, or that it just doesn’t sound good. And if it’s the latter, are you suggesting that presidents should just make shit up if the truth isn’t appealing?

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  73. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    He would be right, but I don’t think he would have gotten much sympathy for that assertion under those alternative parameters.

    I guess the only analogy readily at hand is COVID; there is no dearth of alternative approaches presented which Trump could have taken and saved lives.
    On the other hand McCarthy last week explained that the only safe way to leave Afghanistan, is to stay there indefinitely.

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  74. mattbernius says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    A later deadline, still before the end of the year. Provide more time to work out the details of evacuating both Americans and Afghans.

    My understanding is that beyond the symbolic nature of getting out before 9/11, the Taliban were not interested in extending the deadline any further. In fact, they had already extended it (by four months) from the date agreed upon in the original negotiations (which the Taliban had already protested).

    https://www.factcheck.org/2021/08/timeline-of-u-s-withdrawal-from-afghanistan/

    The argument that we need to honor the Trump/Pompeo promises to the Taliban fell flat on its face.

    Can you unpack why you feel this way? That was the only thing that had been sustaining the ceasefire between the US and the Taliban? Would it have been better to attempt to execute this withdrawal while engaged in active combat with the Taliban?

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I do think that a major problem is that so many Afghans had been trying to get out for years and were bureaucratically blocked from doing so.

    This. Though there is also additional complexity. My understanding is that a lot of the on-the-ground embassy initial paperwork processing was often being done by Afghan citizens hired by the embassy. I’ve heard some accounts that tribal/sectarian divisions often led to paperwork being “lost” by local staffers with axes to grind.

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  75. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    A later deadline, still before the end of the year. Provide more time to work out the details of evacuating both Americans and Afghans. Give time for a more quiet evacuation of some Afghans, instead of the mad dash for the airport. Provide more time to coordinate with allies. Take that extra time to improve the process of allowing Afghans entry to the US and other countries.

    Biden had already stretched the deadline some 4 months.
    No one foresaw how quickly Afghan’s cowardly leadership would jump ship, or how fast the Taliban would take over. I’m sure many have in hind-sight.
    There had been at least nine notices for people to get the fuq out of the country, and that airfare would be paid for.
    The chaos would only expand to fill whatever timeline chosen, and more time gives more opportunity for terrorists. A variation on Parkinson’s Law.
    I think Biden made the correct, and incredibly difficult, call on this.
    No one is perfect, certainly not politicians. I’m sure after action reports will show many things done wrong. Some tragically.
    But at the end of the day I think Biden deserves more credit for doing something three other Presidents knew was right, but didn’t have the balls to do.

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  76. mattbernius says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    The argument that we need to honor the Trump/Pompeo promises to the Taliban fell flat on its face.

    At the time the deal was signed last year, I noted it would be worth watching this with the background of Trump’s decision to scrap the Iran Nuclear deal. I’m curious where you netted out on that particular reversal of the previous administration’s negotiated agreement.

    BTW, I recently revisited that posting and in it I gave Trump credit for starting the process of bringing the war to a close. I will continue to list that as one of the few bright spots of his 4 year term.

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  77. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    A later deadline, still before the end of the year. Provide more time to work out the details of evacuating both Americans and Afghans.

    As I pointed out earlier, the administration just announced the completion of negotiations for a later deadline. A negotiation that wouldn’t have succeeded if we did what you suggest:

    The argument that we need to honor the Trump/Pompeo promises to the Taliban fell flat on its face.

    If we unilaterally reject the Doha agreement, the Taliban immediately start attacking us again.

    This is typical “Blob” bad faith arguing where they say they just think the withdrawal should have been managed better when what they really mean is that they think Biden should have done something that would have boxed us in to restarting the initial invasion because that’s what they actually want.

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  78. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    Granted: Getting out was always going to be ugly, no doubt.
    Granted: Having the guts to take this hit and actually get out when no one else had the balls was the right strategic decision.
    Granted: The roots of this date back 20 years, and if we have to blame someone (and apparently we do), start with Bush and his neo-con and nation building fantasies. Proceed to Obama, who probably had the best political opportunity to get out after Bin Laden was killed, and didn’t take it. Move on to Trump and the Doha surrender. Biden was undoubtedly dealt a shitty hand, and deserves the least blame for how f-ed up Afghanistan is of all the recent Presidents.
    Granted: The crisis response that has now evacuated well over 100k individuals has been impressive and deserves more credit.
    Granted: I doubt this actually matter in 2022 elections, and it will be ancient history by 2024. Biden is unlikely to face an election penalty on this.

    It is not true, however, that people haven’t presented other options and are just whining about how they could do it better. If you think that, you haven’t been reading the comments. And while I don’t agree with all of KingDaddy’s post (in particular, I think pulling out IS the right strategic decision), I think he’s on the right track in thinking that Biden made up his mind on Afghanistan 12 years ago and was annoyed Obama didn’t follow his advice then. I’d add that Biden has been primarily focused on Covid-19 (perfectly understandable position) and seems to have treated Afghanistan as an irritant. He set a date…and that’s about it. It was not a focus of his or Harris’ time.

    He did not coordinate well (if at all) with allies on it (European or Afghan). He did not use the bully pulpit to regularly remind everyone (including the American public) that this was happening. He didn’t focus on cutting through the red tape holding things up, or figure out how to exercise executive statements to his advantage (something he did–even knowing it would only delay things) on the eviction moratorium.

    I think, as others have mentioned, a small surge to really secure the Kabul area would have been wise. Pulling whatever we could of the Afghan army (the bits that existed, anyway) to a central position like the area around Kabul instead of leaving them exposed at the end of non-existent logistics lines in the provinces would have been smart. Doing the whole thing on a schedule and keeping the public (ours, Europe’s, Afghans) aware of it would have been smart. If for no other reason than another reminder to everyone that it was really happening. Prepping refugee centers in advance with supplies (and planned cooperation with allies) should have been a no-brainer. I think doing more to expedite the evacuation (do a physical security check for bombs or weapons and fly them out, then worry about the paperwork; it should be a scandal that planes that aren’t even full are taking off while there are still crowds trying to get out) was and is something that could be done better to reduce the window of vulnerability.

    Instead, it kind of seemed like he set a date, then vaguely expected someone else to drive it. An issue this important should have had either Biden or Harris as point, but I see no evidence that it was handled that way. A gutted State department sends out a few notices. The military preps to withdraw troops (evacuating Bagram in the middle of the night with no notice strikes me as a perfectly reasonable military solution, and a perfectly terrible political move). But I don’t see any high level coordination and planning at all. Hell, it seems more like a bunch of people thought they could just drag their feet and then get him to indefinitely delay. And again, that’s a lack of top-level leadership not making it crystal clear to everyone–in public as well as private–with their own sustained involvement that this was going to happen. The single fact that we seem to have genuinely shocked all our own allies tells us this was very poorly managed and led.

    I’d far rather have Biden than the former guy (Biden is 10 major screwups and an infinite amount of basic humanity ahead), but for a man basically elected to be decent and competent, this was neither. And we should be able to point that out without it turning into the all too typical partisan shitshow of “the other guy/team screwed up, not me or mine”.

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  79. Barry says:

    @JohnSF: “Maybe the next time the US tries to sign up allies it should ask them to read the small print: “Invalid after x years, y casualties, z dollars. Please sign here.””

    Was it ever not like that, with anybody?

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  80. Andy says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    I think Jim puts it very succinctly here.

    I would just add the most commenters probably don’t realize how lucky we got. The NEO turned into a success in large part because the Taliban played nice. We were able to get out so many Afghans on short notice because the Taliban allowed that to happen. They didn’t have to let us evacuate 110k people.

    I don’t think most here have any idea of the tactical and strategic vulnerability we were in due to being confined to an indefensible civilian airport in the middle of a city of 4 million people, surrounded by the forces of an enemy we’ve been fighting and killing for 20 years. That’s why, at the beginning, a lot of us who know Afghan history thought of the parallels to the end the First Anglo-Afghan War, when Elphinstone’s army was similarly trapped in an indefensible location near Kabul. Things didn’t go so well for them.

    So yes, we should be very happy that we were able to make the best of a bad situation and to the extent that the Biden administration should get credit for things turning out well, I think he and the administration deserves some for pivoting from their previous mistakes. Once the die was cast on 15 August, I think the administration and our government did all the right things. And I think it was especially good that the Admistration largely GTFO of the way and let DoD and State operators do what they do best. The desire of courtiers and politicos in Washington to micromanage a crisis is always high, and Biden deserves credit for not letthing that happen. And they also deserve credit for their willingness to work with the Taliban, though they really didn’t have much choice. But we shouldn’t dismiss the fact that we were lucky, the Taliban showed uncharacteristic grace, nor should we we chalk this up as a “win” and not investigate and consider the how and why the of our actions prior to August 15th, and learn whatever lessons they show.

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  81. mattbernius says:

    @Andy:

    The NEO turned into a success in large part because the Taliban played nice. We were able to get out so many Afghans on short notice because the Taliban allowed that to happen. They didn’t have to let us evacuate 110k people.

    I don’t think most here have any idea of the tactical and strategic vulnerability we were in due to being confined to an indefensible civilian airport in the middle of a city of 4 million people, surrounded by the forces of an enemy we’ve been fighting and killing for 20 years.

    Thank you for putting this so succinctly. This is also why the idea of “renegotiating the deal” or “extending deadlines” or worse “scrapping the deal” really did not make sense (and that’s what I’ve seen from a number of analysts).

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  82. Barry says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: “Can you honestly say you’d have cut Trump slack for the exact same outcome?”

    Yes, I can, because that would have been impossible.

    Trump has a track record of f*cking things up, and 10x that on cruelty.

    It is 100% certain that he would have abandoned all Afghans to their fate.

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  83. Andy says:

    @mattbernius:

    This is also why the idea of “renegotiating the deal” or “extending deadlines” or worse “scrapping the deal” really did not make sense (and that’s what I’ve seen from a number of analysts).

    Yep, we had very little leverage over the Taliban – they held most of the cards. We were in no position to make demands like that.

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  84. JohnSF says:

    @Ken_L:

    Why should Americans fight and die to rescue people who were given 20 years to take control of their country, and failed miserably?

    So, they just weren’t worthy, is that it?
    Blame the defeated; they obviously just didn’t fight hard enough for their lives to have value.
    65,000 of them died fighting.
    How many would be enough for them to be worthy of your concern?

    Yes, damn right I’m angry

    I’m more sad than angry.
    Sad for the waste, for the loss, for the wreckage of lives now and in the future.
    And, as a trivial footnote, rather sad to see such callousness wrapping itself in a cloak of virtue and wisdom.

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  85. JohnSF says:

    @Barry:

    Was it ever not like that…

    To extent, true.

    But can you not see the message this sends:
    “You do not need to defeat the United States of America to win. All you need to do is outlast them.”

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  86. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @JohnSF: They arent white people or white adjacent people…so of course they arent worthy. We still have Armies in Europe waiting for the Russian Army to cross the Fulda Gap… But that “Forever Occupation” or money pit isnt a problem.

    Its not “What”….but “Who”

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  87. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @wr:

    Trumpkin Wr: People that wear masks and get vaccinated get Covid…so that shit is a waste of time.

    You understand risk reduction…so take the partisan blinders off and spare me. No one, ever said other options did present other challenges or risks. Thats what you comprehended because you arent a good faith broker here.

    Yes, their would be headlines…but not ones that amplify a narrative of incompetence and being “driven” out of Afghanistan. Those should have been the political goals here.

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  88. Ken_L says:

    @JohnSF: It’s not a question of them being “worthy”, it’s that America tried to impose an ideology/political system on them which plainly the majority of them aren’t willing to fight for.

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  89. Ken_L says:

    @JohnSF:

    I would ask a lot of people here:
    If these events had taken place in the second term of Trump, what would your responses have been?

    They couldn’t have. Trump would have pulled out by his April 30 deadline, as agreed. The Taliban wouldn’t have interfered. The only Afghans evacuated would have been the few thousand with SIVs.

    The Taliban would still have taken over. The major differences would have been (a) more than 100,000 Afghans would have been left to the tender mercies of the new regime, and (b) the US media would have given events about the same attention as they do to Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon. Biden is paying the price for acting with honor.

    The leader of the White House Press Rabble, Jonathan Karl, wrote this yesterday. Its supreme irrationality sums up the hysteria being directed at Joe Biden:

    “This has been an incredible airlift, more than 100,000 people evacuated, but what a disaster.”

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  90. @Barry: That strikes as a way of dodging my point.

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  91. @Ken_L: But that’s not the point of the question. The point of the question is: to what degree is one’s reaction to what has unfolded the results of positive (or negative) feelings one has for the sitting president versus the previous one. And, to further ask a person to think about how they might have responded to Trump being president if everything else unfolded as it did.

    It is a reasonable thing to ask, and I think an honest assessment should lead most people to see, at least a little bit, the way partisan filters influence the way we all look at/react to the world around us.

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  92. JohnSF says:

    @Ken_L:
    The Doha betrayal placed them in a position that was both politically and militarily untenable.
    The only reason they lasted as long as they did was because they were hoping Biden would change course; though by that point it was likely already too far gone.
    House of Lords Select Report, January 2021:

    “ANSF had faced “a constant fight that involves pretty intense combat nearly every day”.”
    “…45,000 security personnel had been killed since 2014. The “number of casualties and the brunt of the fighting” borne by Afghan forces since 2015 was “incredible”
    …elements of US capability were critical to the avoidance of a potential catastrophic failure of ANSF”

    You appear to think that if the majority of the population is “onside” then they can “fight”.
    This seems to be quite a common belief among Americans.
    It is not the case.
    Armies collapse if in untenable positions and without supplies.
    Governments collapse if abandoned by allies, and faced with military collapse.

    Untold numbers of invaders or internal minorities have quite easily imposed their will, their rule, upon defeated people, with the help of the occasional massacre, and the reign of fear.
    The myth of invincible national popular resistance is just that: a myth.

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  93. Christine Rae Lotz says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Well said. War is hell.

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  94. Ken_L says:

    @JohnSF: Stripped of all the rhetoric, NATO deposed the Taliban and offered Afghans a 20 year window of opportunity to find another government they were willing to defend. They didn’t, so the Taliban is back. There is simply no reason for America to keep interfering.

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  95. Andy says:

    @JohnSF:

    The Doha betrayal placed them in a position that was both politically and militarily untenable.

    We may discover an irony one day – that the Trump administration’s negotiations with the Taliban may have built a level of trust as well as lines of communication with the Taliban leadership that allowed us to be partners with them these past two weeks, to the point of even giving them intelligence to prevent ISIS-K attacks and lists of US citizens to speed the evacuation process. One has to wonder if the Taliban would have been so accommodating if Trump had spent his term doing the things Obama and Bush did.

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  96. Mikey says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    It is a reasonable thing to ask, and I think an honest assessment should lead most people to see, at least a little bit, the way partisan filters influence the way we all look at/react to the world around us.

    Well, yes, as far as it goes it is a reasonable thing to ask.

    But at the same time it avoids a great deal of context. When an otherwise competent administration experiences something like the first couple days of our withdrawal, it’s certainly reasonable to approach it with an assumption there were factors beyond the administration’s control that contributed. But when an administration like the utterly incompetent shitshow that was Trump’s experiences it, we are more than warranted in an assumption they just fucked it up.

    Is that fair? I mean, certainly the circumstances could be essentially identical and neither administration would have seen a different outcome. But an immediate judgment that’s harsher on Trump than on Biden is reasonable considering what we know about each of them.

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  97. wr says:

    @Jim Brown 32: ” Thats what you comprehended because you arent a good faith broker here.”

    I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about here. First of all, I’m not a “broker” at all. We are all pseudonymous commenters on a website, and our opinions mean nothing. So spare me the righteous anger. You’ve been claiming for days — weeks? — now that you and your buddies have had the answer to how to pull out of Afghanistan the right way, only no one has been willing to listen.

    Well, I am willing to listen. I asked you to explain what you would have done differently if the people at the top had been willing to listen to you. And you explode at me, claiming I’m a Trump follower and bizarrely spouting off about Covid and masks.

    You’ve been making big claims. I asked you to actually stand up and explain what you were talking about — and you started ranting. To me that’s a pretty good sign that you’ve got nothing. But I’m sure we’re all still willing and eager to be proven wrong.

    You know how this should have been done? Great, let’s hear it.

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  98. wr says:

    @Jim Brown 32: “We still have Armies in Europe waiting for the Russian Army to cross the Fulda Gap… But that “Forever Occupation” or money pit isnt a problem.”

    And I have to say I find it pretty surprising that a man with such a military background as yourself doesn’t understand the difference between a US military base hosted in a friendly country and occupation outpost in a war zone. Last I heard we’re not sending out drones to blow up villages in Germany or Japan.

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  99. JohnSF says:

    @wr:
    But if a faction started attacking you, how long before you decided the best policy was to bugger off out?

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  100. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @wr: Actually, I do–you don’t understand the difference.

    You don’t need a military for non-existent mission. You need them to either fight a war–or be ready to fight a war (a war with a reasonable chance of actually happening.) The Russian are not coming over the Fulda Gap to overrun Europe–ever. If peacetime/peaceful postings are all Americans have the stomach for–then make all the Services the National Guard and bring everybody back home. They can parade around the flag CONUS for much cheaper.

    This is how cognitive dissonance works–we recognize that its probably a waste of Police resources to have the police respond to half the stuff they are called for. No need for a dude with a gun to show up with most 911 calls–wasted resources.

    But somehow–its not a waste of resources for US military forces (funded by taxpayers) to be posted in countries where there is no threat of the conflict those forces are there for– and train for.

    And yet–Military forces we actually have in countries where there is conflict, you know, the thing militaries are designed for. THIS is somehow an unacceptable use of the Military

    THAT MAKES ZERO SENSE— Why don’t we save money on all of it–pull all the troops to home base and have them parade around the flag ever so often–because God forbid we put a military person at risk and they die. Tell you what–why even have a military–we can convert them all to Peace Corps a post them all over the Word spreading sunshine and skittles to the world. That way–we ensure they never are at risk.

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  101. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @wr:

    I’ll keep this high level so only 2 big items:

    –Stick with a conditions-based withdrawal strategy. The announcement set about an irreversible chain. Use conditions to barter for your rural evacuees safe passage into Kabul and into the airport. We had something the Taliban really, really wanted–and that was us to leave. You do X–we ship X people home.

    –Take ownership of defense and perimeter of the Kabul region using the Afghan Army/Air Force advised and assisted by US and backed up by enough US air assets at HKIA and maybe Bagram to light up the perimeter. Allowing Taliban to provide perimeter security for our ops? I can assure you that was not a dependency of ANY plan and was a key indicator we’d lost control–as was the “surge” back in. Had those Forces stayed in Country in the first place and trickled out–the battlespace geometry would have been a lot different. We probably wouldn’t have witnessed people plunge from a C-17s landing gear to their deaths.

    Maintaining enough assets in Country to threaten the Talibans desire to mass and go into Kabul is the main key–even if would have erupted into some skirmishes. That would have allowed us to manage the flow of people for the amount of airlift available without the scarcity of time to drive panic. That would have required a pre-surge of the package we sent in–but they would have been in a more defensible position than what they are now.

    Yes, its looking like we are going to get off pretty easy–but it didn’t have to be that way. You do reckless things like this and the odds are going to run out on you. These things aren’t paint by the numbers–anything can happen and anything does happen. But you manage risk by designing operations using sound principles and ad-libbing where required. We owe that to our people in Uniform–to mitigate as much risk as prudent so they have a fighting chance if the shit hits the fan.

    Had it hit the fan here–it would have been bad–REALLY BAD– Like History Book Bad

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  102. Andy says:

    @Jim Brown 32Ah fucking men!

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  103. JohnSF says:

    @Ken_L:
    IMO it’s been clear for some time that a unitary Afghan government was a mirage, and effective partition probably a better option.
    And the stubborn delusions of Ghani, the incompetence of the Afghan army leadership, the sheer dysfunction and corruption of the state, make withdrawal at least an reasonable option.

    But it doesn’t matter how willing the peoples of Afghanistan were to support their government.
    And 65,000 combat deaths show at least some level of support.
    Without a functioning military, they were defenceless, and Doha had wrecked the Afghan military.
    Or does only victory prove that support is real?

    The governments of conquered European states in 1940 may have had popular support.
    Didn’t matter a damn one way or the other to their German conquerors.

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  104. wr says:

    @Jim Brown 32: Thank you for the explanation. I will say I find that your plan, like many of the ones presented in contrast to Biden’s, seem to operate on an assumption that the Taliban would have agreed, or at least gone along with, a major alteration in the agreement. I have no idea if this is true or not, or if the Biden administration tried to find a way to make any of this happen, so I will bow out of the argument in deference to those whose passions are hotter and whose knowledge deeper.

    But I do want to say on my way out the door that you seem to be assuming that the Biden plans were inept and it was just by luck they happened to work pretty well. The fact is, they did work pretty well. As you say, things could have gotten ugly and they didn’t. You attribute that purely to luck in the face of incompetence. Isn’t it just possible they knew what they were doing and ended up with pretty much the scenario they anticipated (after that first chaotic day or so)?

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  105. wr says:

    @Jim Brown 32: “You don’t need a military for non-existent mission. ”

    I am still trying to decipher this message. You seem to be saying that it’s a waste of time to have military bases in friendly countries, and that the only proper use of our military is to send them out into war zones so that they can kill people and impose America’s will on the rest of the world.

    If you are pining for the glory days of imperial subjugation, I’m afraid you were born a little too late. And I know — you only want to impose our will when it matches up with what you decide the will of the occupied people is. I’m sure that will make it all work out much better this time.

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  106. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @wr: No…I say that in all sincerity. Thats like hiring a roofer to do a new roof and he puts tarps up….but because it doesn’t rain inside the house….he must have known what he was doing.

    I know you’re a writer…you see things that non-writers don’t see. Sure it may “work” and sell a million books…but you would know the likelyhood, based on the craftsmanship of the author, of them being successful again.

    I was a professional Military strategist, I see things in the how operations are designed and I know our doctrine, how our political Civilian castes think, and what theories they operate under. So I have a high degree of accuracy in knowing what was planned and what was a wasn’t.

    What you dont understand is that we can airlift that many people in our sleep. We have the best mobility forces on earth. 100,000+ sounds like a big life to people not familiar with our capabilities. The number of people was NOT the measure of success here because we can do that without breaking a sweat. The measure of success was leaving while owning the narratives about our competance, values, and strength. Just electing Biden doesn’t repair our image…its what we do and how we do it. This withdrawal might as well been done by Trump. It was irresponsible…using measures of success that were the real challenge…and damaged Americans credibility. Something Biden said he would do internationally.

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  107. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @wr: Im not pining for anything. Sure, light peacetime military footprints in friendly countries are a good diplomatic tool.

    That doesn’t change the nature of what a military is for…especially when we eshew what their primary mission is for.. for the off-label easy mission. Do you understand that each unit over there is still training for their wartime mission…and not training to be diplomats and olive branches to the host nation? It would be smarter to send more diplomats if ALL you wanted to do was keep troops out of harms way. Hell even the police think they should never be in harms way….which is exactly what they are paid to do.

    You are making the same argument as people who think the Government should balance its budget because they have to balance their checkbooks.

    Geopolitics do not operate like human social networks. The currency of Sovereign nations is Order. There will be an order…and you might like it…or you might not not. But it will be there…either chosen by you (as a nation)…or imposed on you.

    If a nation has the power to chose..its in its best interest to do so. The only reason that some nations, like sweden, get to outsource control is because they live under an order guaranteed by another nation. In this case, Nato, which is mostly the U.S. and U.K.

    The last 70 years have spoiled Americans and the West. You think its all magic the way things are..and that life would be no different regardless of US foreign policy. This is the same blindness antivaxxers have. Having the the audacity to curse the tools that created a mostly disease free environment they protest from. Had they grew up when their great grandparents grew up…they would be shooting every thing they could get in their veins.

    We have a historical record of a mulipolar global order…it wasn’t a nice place. Lots of tyranny, war, and Civilians caught in the cross fire. And America frankly wasn’t that great of a place…even for white people.

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  108. Barry says:

    @JohnSF: “But can you not see the message this sends:
    “You do not need to defeat the United States of America to win. All you need to do is outlast them.””

    Same basic idea.

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  109. Barry says:

    @Jim Brown 32: “They arent white people or white adjacent people…so of course they arent worthy. We still have Armies in Europe waiting for the Russian Army to cross the Fulda Gap… But that “Forever Occupation” or money pit isnt a problem.”

    Actually, we drew that down a lot after 1989.

    And using that as a comparison is Blob-worthy.

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  110. Barry says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: ” That strikes as a way of dodging my point.”

    No, I pointed out that Trump would not and could not have done as well.

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  111. Barry says:

    @Jim Brown 32: we largely have come homefrom Europe.

    F*ck, what part of ‘facts’ do you not understand?

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