Thousands of Americans awaiting instructions and with no way to get to an airport whose access is now controlled by the Taliban are still trapped inside Afghanistan. Pathetically, they are being told to "shelter in place." Pictured: Taliban fighters near Zanbaq Square in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 16, 2021. (Photo by Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images)
The horror of President Joseph Biden's deliberate retreat from Afghanistan is so immense and its geopolitical impact so severe, we have to fully comprehend the extent of the disaster.
In insisting on an immediate withdrawal Biden apparently rejected the advice of Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. According to the New York Times:
"Even as the number of American forces in Afghanistan steadily decreased to the 2,500 who still remained, Defense Department leaders still cobbled together a military effort that managed to protect the United States from terrorist attacks...."
Director of Central Intelligence William Burns also warned the U.S. Senate that a withdrawal would forfeit the ability to have human intelligence in the area to pick up what the Taliban, Al-Qaeda or Isis might be planning in their ongoing assault on the West.
Globally, there is not a friend or foe who doesn't see that America's reliability as an ally has been demolished. Great Britain, which has troops in Afghanistan, was not even consulted.
Thousands of Americans awaiting instructions and with no way to get to an airport whose access is now controlled by the Taliban are still trapped inside Afghanistan. Pathetically, they are being told to "shelter in place." Interpreters and their families, who were promised that in the event of crisis they would be rescued, are not just trapped; reports are that members of the Taliban with "lists of names" are going door to door looking for allies of the U.S. military.
According to the Washington Post:
"'I gave everything I had to the Americans, but once they are gone, I will be killed,' Abdul Rashid Shirzad told the journalists. The 35-year-old husband and father mastered English and risked his life to serve two years as a battlefield interpreter for Navy SEALs. Shirzad said his identity and those of other U.S. employees are well known to Taliban extremists: 'They keep track of us, and they don't shoot us like they do Afghan soldiers. If they catch me, they will behead me.'"
Some military experts suggest that if a troop withdrawal had been planned for the winter when the Taliban return to Pakistan to escape the cold, rather than in the middle if the summer, evidently the fighting season, much of this calamitous outcome could have been avoided. Biden was hearing none of it.
A strong argument was made for not pulling out at all. The objective was to ensure that America was never again attacked by a 9/11 type of terrorist group. To that end, the U.S. had a modest military footprint, like a small insurance premium, in Afghanistan of 2,500 troops, six airbases including the largest, Bagram; and from its runways the ability to reach adversaries such as China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and other points in or near Central Asia. Those airbases are now in the hands of the Taliban.
To reach much of Eastern or Central Asia now, the U.S. would first have to fly around eight hours from the Gulf States, or perhaps from Pakistan – not the most practical approach, although the US has reportedly been looking for other airbases in Central Asia. The U.S. has, after all, had troops in Germany and South Korea for decades, and no one has been calling for their removal.
"[A]ccording to Human Rights Watch, the Taliban have been summarily executing Afghan civilians linked to the government — a development Secretary of State Antony Blinken meekly said was 'troubling.' Already, the Afghans who put their lives on the line to assist the U.S. Army over the last decades are reported to have been beheaded, a grotesque dereliction of our duty to the Afghans who foolishly believed in the U.S."
What must allies such as Taiwan or Israel be thinking now after watching poorly armed tribesman sweep aside an American ally we resolutely vowed to assist? Worse, what must America's adversaries, such as China, Russia, Iran or North Korea be thinking now? That such cut-and-run behavior signals the perfect opportunity to strike the Ukraine or Taiwan?
Communist China can see what America and the West did in response to its seizure of Hong Kong, its deceitful build-up of fake islands as military bases in the South China Sea, its attacks on northern India, its threats of a nuclear attack on Japan, its threats to attack Australia and its lies about the human-to-human transmissibility of its Covid-19 virus that have so far caused the deaths of more than 4,000,000 people worldwide and the devastation of countless economies -- exactly nothing.
The new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will now be the center for a resurgent terrorism, a Mecca for terrorists. Terrorists in Europe, now emboldened, will have a command-and-control headquarters to draw on. Moreover, what is to stop them, and the thousands of terrorists, including senior Al-Qaeda operatives, released from Afghan prisons this week, from crossing into the U.S. through its newly open, non-existent southern border?
In June, President Biden announced that the Afghan army, 300,000 strong, was armed with "all the tools... and equipment of any modern military. We provided advanced weaponry." Much of this weaponry -- "massive amounts of US-supplied firepower" -- is now in the possession of the Taliban, potentially to be used against the U.S. and our allies throughout Europe.
Historians have the advantage of looking back at seminal events that occurred decades, generations, even centuries ago and, with hindsight, point to how the fate of nations were changed by decisions, indecisions, mistakes, or a failure of leadership. In this case, they won't need to wait to assign the verdict of history. It is now clear that the Biden Administration has profoundly and dangerously miscalculated, and the free world will pay the price. As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the bitter irony won't be lost on many an American.
Lawrence Kadish serves on the Board of Governors of Gatestone Institute.