Mercer County Outlook Editorial by Dave Schmidt

(8-17-21) The world sees the Afghan issue as an American disaster. President Biden went on vacation to Camp David, addressed the nation yesterday and went back on vacation.

Yesterday during his address President Biden decided to blame everyone for the Afghan disaster, while taking no responsibility in the pull-out.

From his address to the nation –

In April remarks by Biden he said:

  • Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. 
  • The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight.
  • President Ghani insisted the Afghan forces would fight, but obviously he was wrong.
  • Our only vital national interest in Afghanistan remains today what it has always been: preventing a terrorist attack on American homeland.
  • I inherited a deal that President Trump negotiated with the Taliban. 

It is perhaps not what I would have negotiated myself, but it was an agreement made by the United States government, and that means something. So, in keeping with that agreement and with our national interests, the United States will begin our final withdrawal — begin it on May 1 of this year.

We will not conduct a hasty rush to the exit. We’ll do it — we’ll do it responsibly, deliberately, and safely. And we will do it in full coordination with our allies and partners, who now have more forces in Afghanistan than we do.

And the Taliban should know that if they attack us as we draw down, we will defend ourselves and our partners with all the tools at our disposal.

He did not follow that agreement…he did not even follow what he said he would do…that is now a fact. Blaming Trump for his problems…leaders don’t do that, time for him to put on his big boy pants.

This is how the world sees the actions taken by the US.

In July, Joe Biden said it was not inevitable that the Taliban would take over again.

Referring to the possibility of an airlift (that happened in 1975 during the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War) Biden explained,

“There’s going to be no circumstance where you’ll see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States from Afghanistan.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated:

“Any political settlement that the Afghans pursue to avert bloodshed must include having women at the table.  The fate of women and girls in Afghanistan is critical to the future of Afghanistan.  As we strive to assist women, we must recognize that their voices are important, and all must listen to them for solutions, respectful of their culture.  There is bipartisan support to assist the women and girls of Afghanistan.  One of the successes of U.S.- NATO cooperation in Afghanistan was the progress made by women and girls.  We must all continue to work together to ensure that is not eroded. 

Don’t expect the current administration to follow this direction as days, weeks and years go by. Vice President Kamala Harris, would she sit down with the Taliban? No she has proven that she avoids trouble areas…

Remarks by President Biden on Afghanistan

East Room

4:02 P.M. EDT  (8-16-21)

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.  I want to speak today to the unfolding situation in Afghanistan: the developments that have taken place in the last week and the steps we’re taking to address the rapidly evolving events.

My national security team and I have been closely monitoring the situation on the ground in Afghanistan and moving quickly to execute the plans we had put in place to respond to every constituency, including — and contingency — including the rapid collapse we’re seeing now.

I’ll speak more in a moment about the specific steps we’re taking, but I want to remind everyone how we got here and what America’s interests are in Afghanistan.

We went to Afghanistan almost 20 years ago with clear goals: get those who attacked us on September 11th, 2001, and make sure al Qaeda could not use Afghanistan as a base from which to attack us again.

We did that.  We severely degraded al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We never gave up the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and we got him.  That was a decade ago. 

Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation building.  It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy.

Our only vital national interest in Afghanistan remains today what it has always been: preventing a terrorist attack on American homeland.

I’ve argued for many years that our mission should be narrowly focused on counterterrorism — not counterinsurgency or nation building.  That’s why I opposed the surge when it was proposed in 2009 when I was Vice President.

And that’s why, as President, I am adamant that we focus on the threats we face today in 2021 — not yesterday’s threats.

Today, the terrorist threat has metastasized well beyond Afghanistan: al Shabaab in Somalia, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Nusra in Syria, ISIS attempting to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq and establishing affiliates in multiple countries in Africa and Asia.  These threats warrant our attention and our resources.

We conduct effective counterterrorism missions against terrorist groups in multiple countries where we don’t have a permanent military presence.

If necessary, we will do the same in Afghanistan.  We’ve developed counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States in the region and to act quickly and decisively if needed.

When I came into office, I inherited a deal that President Trump negotiated with the Taliban.  Under his agreement, U.S. forces would be out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021 — just a little over three months after I took office.

U.S. forces had already drawn down during the Trump administration from roughly 15,500 American forces to 2,500 troops in country, and the Taliban was at its strongest militarily since 2001.

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

There would have been no ceasefire after May 1.  There was no agreement protecting our forces after May 1.  There was no status quo of stability without American casualties after May 1.

There was only the cold reality of either following through on the agreement to withdraw our forces or escalating the conflict and sending thousands more American troops back into combat in Afghanistan, lurching into the third decade of conflict. 

I stand squarely behind my decision.  After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces.

That’s why we were still there.  We were clear-eyed about the risks.  We planned for every contingency.

But I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you.  The truth is: This did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.

So what’s happened?  Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country.  The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight.

If anything, the developments of the past week reinforced that ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision. 

American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.  We spent over a trillion dollars.  We trained and equipped an Afghan military force of some 300,000 strong — incredibly well equipped — a force larger in size than the militarizes of many of our NATO allies. 

We gave them every tool they could need.  We paid their salaries, provided for the maintenance of their air force — something the Taliban doesn’t have.  Taliban does not have an air force.  We provided close air support. 

We gave them every chance to determine their own future.  What we could not provide them was the will to fight for that future.

There’s some very brave and capable Afghan special forces units and soldiers, but if Afghanistan is unable to mount any real resistance to the Taliban now, there is no chance that 1 year — 1 more year, 5 more years, or 20 more years of U.S. military boots on the ground would’ve made any difference.

And here’s what I believe to my core: It is wrong to order American troops to step up when Afghanistan’s own armed forces would not.  If the political leaders of Afghanistan were unable to come together for the good of their people, unable to negotiate for the future of their country when the chips were down, they would never have done so while U.S. troops remained in Afghanistan bearing the brunt of the fighting for them.

And our true strategic competitors — China and Russia — would love nothing more than the United States to continue to funnel billions of dollars in resources and attention into stabilizing Afghanistan indefinitely.

When I hosted President Ghani and Chairman Abdullah at the White House in June and again when I spoke by phone to Ghani in July, we had very frank conversations.  We talked about how Afghanistan should prepare to fight their civil wars after the U.S. military departed, to clean up the corruption in government so the government could function for the Afghan people.  We talked extensively about the need for Afghan leaders to unite politically. 

They failed to do any of that.

I also urged them to engage in diplomacy, to seek a political settlement with the Taliban.  This advice was flatly refused.  Mr. Ghani insisted the Afghan forces would fight, but obviously he was wrong.

So I’m left again to ask of those who argue that we should stay: How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghans — Afghanistan’s civil war when Afghan troops will not?   How many more lives — American lives — is it worth?  How many endless rows of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery?

I’m clear on my answer: I will not repeat the mistakes we’ve made in the past — the mistake of staying and fighting indefinitely in a conflict that is not in the national interest of the United States, of doubling down on a civil war in a foreign country, of attempting to remake a country through the endless military deployments of U.S. forces.

Those are the mistakes we cannot continue to repeat, because we have significant vital interests in the world that we cannot afford to ignore.

I also want to acknowledge how painful this is to so many of us.  The scenes we’re seeing in Afghanistan, they’re gut-wrenching, particularly for our veterans, our diplomats, humanitarian workers, for anyone who has spent time on the ground working to support the Afghan people.

For those who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan and for Americans who have fought and served in the country — serve our country in Afghanistan — this is deeply, deeply personal.

It is for me as well.  I’ve worked on these issues as long as anyone.  I’ve been throughout Afghanistan during this war — while the war was going on — from Kabul to Kandahar to the Kunar Valley.

I’ve traveled there on four different occasions.  I met with the people.  I’ve spoken to the leaders.  I spent time with our troops.  And I came to understand firsthand what was and was not possible in Afghanistan.

So, now we’re fercus [sic] — focused on what is possible. 

We will continue to support the Afghan people.  We will lead with our diplomacy, our international influence, and our humanitarian aid.

We’ll continue to push for regional diplomacy and engagement to prevent violence and instability.

We’ll continue to speak out for the basic rights of the Afghan people — of women and girls — just as we speak out all over the world.

I have been clear that human rights must be the center of our foreign policy, not the periphery.  But the way to do it is not through endless military deployments; it’s with our diplomacy, our economic tools, and rallying the world to join us. 

Now, let me lay out the current mission in Afghanistan.  I was asked to authorize — and I did — 6,000 U.S. troops to deploy to Afghanistan for the purpose of assisting in the departure of U.S. and Allied civilian personnel from Afghanistan, and to evacuate our Afghan allies and vulnerable Afghans to safety outside of Afghanistan.

Our troops are working to secure the airfield and to ensure continued operation of both the civilian and military flights.  We’re taking over air traffic control. 

We have safely shut down our embassy and transferred our diplomats.  Our dip- — our diplomatic presence is now consolidated at the airport as well.

Over the coming days, we intend to transport out thousands of American citizens who have been living and working in Afghanistan.

We’ll also continue to support the safe departure of civilian personnel — the civilian personnel of our Allies who are still serving in Afghanistan.

Operation Allies Refugee [Refuge], which I announced back in July, has already moved 2,000 Afghans who are eligible for Special Immigration Visas and their families to the United States.

In the coming days, the U.S. military will provide assistance to move more SIV-eligible Afghans and their families out of Afghanistan.

We’re also expanding refugee access to cover other vulnerable Afghans who worked for our embassy: U.S. non-governmental agencies — or the U.S. non-governmental organizations; and Afghans who otherwise are at great risk; and U.S. news agencies.

I know that there are concerns about why we did not begin evacuating Afghans — civilians sooner.  Part of the answer is some of the Afghans did not want to leave earlier — still hopeful for their country.  And part of it was because the Afghan government and its supporters discouraged us from organizing a mass exodus to avoid triggering, as they said, “a crisis of confidence.”

American troops are performing this mission as professionally and as effectively as they always do, but it is not without risks.

As we carry out this departure, we have made it clear to the Taliban: If they attack our personnel or disrupt our operation, the U.S. presence will be swift and the response will be swift and forceful.  We will defend our people with devastating force if necessary.

Our current military mission will be short in time, limited in scope, and focused in its objectives: Get our people and our allies to safety as quickly as possible. 

And once we have completed this mission, we will conclude our military withdrawal.  We will end America’s longest war after 20 long years of bloodshed.

The events we’re seeing now are sadly proof that no amount of military force would ever deliver a stable, united, and secure Afghanistan — as known in history as the “graveyard of empires.”

What is happening now could just as easily have happened 5 years ago or 15 years in the future.  We have to be honest: Our mission in Afghanistan has taken many missteps — made many missteps over the past two decades. 

I’m now the fourth American President to preside over war in Afghanistan — two Democrats and two Republicans.  I will not pass this responsibly on — responsibility on to a fifth President.

I will not mislead the American people by claiming that just a little more time in Afghanistan will make all the difference.  Nor will I shrink from my share of responsibility for where we are today and how we must move forward from here.

I am President of the United States of America, and the buck stops with me.

I am deeply saddened by the facts we now face.  But I do not regret my decision to end America’s warfighting in Afghanistan and maintain a laser-focus on our counterterrorism missions there and in other parts of the world.

Our mission to degrade the terrorist threat of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and kill Osama bin Laden was a success.

Our decades-long effort to overcome centuries of history and permanently change and remake Afghanistan was not, and I wrote and believed it never could be.

I cannot and I will not ask our troops to fight on endlessly in another — in another country’s civil war, taking casualties, suffering life-shattering injuries, leaving families broken by grief and loss.

This is not in our national security interest.  It is not what the American people want.  It is not what our troops, who have sacrificed so much over the past two decades, deserve.

I made a commitment to the American people when I ran for President that I would bring America’s military involvement in Afghanistan to an end.  And while it’s been hard and messy — and yes, far from perfect — I’ve honored that commitment.

More importantly, I made a commitment to the brave men and women who serve this nation that I wasn’t going to ask them to continue to risk their lives in a military action that should have ended long ago. 

Our leaders did that in Vietnam when I got here as a young man.  I will not do it in Afghanistan.

I know my decision will be criticized, but I would rather take all that criticism than pass this decision on to another President of the United States — yet another one — a fifth one. 

Because it’s the right one — it’s the right decision for our people.  The right one for our brave service members who have risked their lives serving our nation.  And it’s the right one for America. 

So, thank you.  May God protect our troops, our diplomats, and all of the brave Americans serving in harm’s way.

4:21 P.M. EDT

Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement on the situation in Afghanistan:

“The President is to be commended for the clarity of purpose of his statement on Afghanistan and the actions he has taken.   

“The Taliban must know that the world is watching its actions.  We are deeply concerned about reports regarding the Taliban’s brutal treatment of all Afghans, especially women and girls.  The U.S., the international community and the Afghan government must do everything we can to protect women and girls from inhumane treatment by the Taliban.

“Any political settlement that the Afghans pursue to avert bloodshed must include having women at the table.  The fate of women and girls in Afghanistan is critical to the future of Afghanistan.  As we strive to assist women, we must recognize that their voices are important, and all must listen to them for solutions, respectful of their culture.  There is bipartisan support to assist the women and girls of Afghanistan.  One of the successes of U.S.- NATO cooperation in Afghanistan was the progress made by women and girls.  We must all continue to work together to ensure that is not eroded. 

“Once again, I want to acknowledge the clarity of purpose of President Biden’s statement and the wisdom of his actions.  Congress shares the President’s concern for Afghans who have assisted U.S. efforts in country, and we passed Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) legislation to provide for their relocation on a strong, bipartisan basis.

“Most of all, we join the President in acknowledging the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform and their families.”