“The Biden administration is ignoring the realities on the ground,” says Bill Roggio, who closely tracks the Taliban’s advance as a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Clearly the situation is dire, but the administration is telling us that what we see happening isn’t real.”
I get that Biden wants to end America’s “longest war” after 20 years. But it would have been smarter, and more cost-effective, to leave 3,000 or so U.S. forces in country as an insurance policy to provide the critical air support and maintenance that could have prevented a Taliban takeover.
And the president should have junked the fake peace deal with the Taliban inked by former President Donald Trump that gifted the Taliban but undercut the Afghan government.
Instead, Biden insists the 300,000 Afghan troops and air force we trained can keep the Talibs at bay.
Sorry, let’s get real. The lack of critical close U.S. air support now leaves Afghan cities vulnerable.
Moreover, the swift, total U.S. military withdrawal — and impact on air support — has clearly trashed Afghan military morale; soldiers are fleeing even in the north, once a bastion of anti-Taliban feeling. Bottom line: Afghanistan could implode from within.
Let’s just look at the administration’s handling of the morally fraught issue of evacuating translators who helped the U.S. military. The State Department is trying to speed up a process that can take two to five years at best. But the consular department at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul is closed due to COVID-19. And the United States just handed over its last (huge) air base, Bagram, to the Afghans.
“I was shocked they would close Bagram before they did an evacuation,” I was told by Congressman Seth Moulton, a Massachusetts Democrat and one of a bipartisan group of legislators pushing for a speedy evacuation. Yet it appears the administration has yet to pin down locations outside Afghanistan where translators and their families could wait for the months (or years?) it would take to finalize their visas.
And it looks as if the administration is preparing to evacuate only a few thousand of the 18,000 translators on its list before the end of August. No one knows what will be possible after that.
Meantime, Afghan women like my friend in Herat don’t have the luxury of ignoring facts on the ground.