Word out of the White House this week is that Joe Biden, or at least his handlers, intend to recapture the narrative on his colossal Afghan exit screw-up. Good luck with that tardy effort.
It’s as if saying something in Washington, even without attribution, makes it so in this White House wonderland. Especially after the shocking deaths Thursday of more than a dozen U.S. troops at the Kabul airport.
News Flash: The evacuation narrative train left the Kabul station more than a week ago when U.S. troops were finally gone, the Taliban was all over but so were countless thousands of Americans and Afghan allies.
But the reality won’t stop this president from reading the lines touting his immense evacuation. Nor keep his dysfunctional team from parroting the same glowing things about Biden’s plan in order to reach any Americans not paying close attention to the chaotic and now deadly withdrawal scene.
Upwards of 100,000 people have been flown out of Kabul, if you believe Biden’s numbers. For sure that’s a huge number of Americans, Afghan allies, and other nationals to get safely beyond the reach of the fundamentalist Taliban in a short period of time.
Kudos to the aircrews and mechanics who’ve been tirelessly hauling humanity all over the region by the hundreds in huge cargo planes. And the Marines guarding the perimeter.
The real issue about this historic flight of humanity, however, is why such a gargantuan cramped effort was necessary in the first place? For months Team Biden will be trying to fog over that issue like the inside of your windshield in a rainstorm.
Here’s the narrative: Donald Trump did a deal with the Taliban last year when they were only wannabe rulers in which all U.S. troops would be out of Afghanistan by May 1, before the annual Afghan fighting season got underway in that godforsaken land.
In exchange, the Taliban agreed to reduce violent attacks, mainly on Americans, forbid terrorists to set up shop there again, and to negotiate in good faith with the elected central government in Kabul.
The withdrawal commitment was political cover for the United States, so the exit wasn’t an ignominious admission of defeat, like the Soviets in 1989 and every other attempted occupier for the last 33 centuries.
No one except perhaps some kindergarteners in Arkansas expected the Taliban to live up to much of that agreement. And only those toddlers were disappointed.
For some inexplicable reason, Biden delayed the withdrawal first to the anniversary of 9/11 that started this whole mess and then to Aug. 31, which is the prime-time combat season in a land that has no NFL to follow. Taliban forces were well on the move by then.
Taking the flag down at Bagram weeks early with no contingency plan for adversity was the signal for insurgents to step on the gas. So, they did.
Now, the U.S. military is an amazing collection of proud outfits whose men and women, volunteers all, thankfully train for many things you could never even imagine. Hard to believe that one scenario would be to have a commander in chief with diminished mental capacity and a notorious lifelong distrust of the military.
And that man would order woke Pentagon leaders to forget those dumbass civilians in Afghanistan, just get the last 2,500 troops out of Afghanistan. And do it now.
Then once they were out, the Taliban took over everything, and the reality of thousands of potential hostages emerged, Biden abruptly changed his mind to — No, wait, better send 6,000 troops back to re-secure the airfield. Oh, and assemble enough huge planes to fly more than 75,000 frightened people all over the Middle East.
And then send in the director of the Central Intelligence Agency to meet with the Taliban’s leader to politely request an extension of that Aug. 31 exit deadline that the American leader himself had set.
And all the time that U.S. commander in chief was on vacation refusing or incapable of telling countrymen what the hell was going on.
The sporadic times he did venture out, Biden would display an ignorant smugness and talk about vaccinations as if that was the top topic. He had a watery look in his eyes and slurred thoughts that would make even an Arkansas kindergartener say, “Mommy, what’s wrong with that old man?”
Now, all this is not just domestic political theater. China has its eyes on finally annexing Taiwan. It could assess Biden as a weak, confused leader with no will or support for a new foreign military adventure. And China would be right.
The same for Russia’s Vladimir Putin eyeing the rest of Ukraine and/or the Baltic states.
Talk about theater. Last week, Biden’s CIA Director, William Burns, met the Taliban leader. We don’t know what actually happened because…Biden. Remember Obama put him in charge of their administration transparency. So, Biden called a transparency planning meeting — and closed it to media.
Burns might have sought an evacuation deadline extension after Aug. 31. A Taliban spokesman later said no change.
But it’s striking that many of Biden’s foreign policy aides are the same ones who engineered that flimsy nuclear deal with Iran that involved paying the mullahs $1.8 billion in advance. Perhaps we’ve purchased a tacit extension.
Then came late word that, unbelievably, U.S. officials had given the Taliban a long list of Americans and Afghan allies they’d like admitted to the airport for evacuation. Sounds good perhaps if this was a business deal. But wait, the Taliban are terrorists and that naïve list of names could just as easily become a hit list for elimination.
At virtually every stage of this unfolding and now deadly exit drama, Joe Biden has done something dumb. As I wrote here last week, Obama warned us about that proclivity.
Biden changed the pullout plans because they were Trump’s. Last month he uttered rosy talk about how well it was going, a kind of “Mission Accomplished” self-congratulations before the mission. He said no helicopters would ever lift staff to safety from the Kabul embassy roof.
As sure as Anthony Fauci will soon change his mind again on masks, events will unexpectedly turn and bite you in the hair plugs. Sure enough, helicopters did lift Kabul embassy staff to safety.
The pandemic recovery has stalled over the Delta variant. Inflation is climbing too rapidly. The Supreme Court just killed Biden’s eviction moratorium. Now, the supportive polls Biden once hailed as approval are sinking.
During the Taliban’s swift march to victory in the Afghan mountains, Biden was AWOL on vacation in the Maryland mountains.
No one heard anything and when we finally did, Biden was not confident and decisive. He was confused, defensive, looked lost. A healthy president, asked a challenging media question, would not turn and stride away.
At one time not so long ago in American public life, politicians were judged on the job they did. Somehow, thanks in large part to the ubiquity of television and video, you are now judged on how things look. The photo-op rules supreme. You need not actually do anything. It just has to look that way.
Here are some things Joe Biden could have done to appear in control before the irreparable damage. Cancel vacation. Return to the White House urgently.
Hold daily media events with abundant stats and details on evacuations. Have a phone call with the commander in Kabul to thank his team for their vigilance and dedication. Cancel Kamala Harris’ silly trip to Asia.
Greet a planeload of evacuated Americans at the White House. Let photographers set up outside the Oval Office for shots through the bulletproof glass of POTUS at his desk, jacket off, sleeves rolled up, phone to his ear.
Send your CIA Director to Kabul to tell the Taliban’s top turban congrats on your victory. We are leaving as promised, but we’re not going to make it by Aug. 31. We’ll be here a few days after that to get all Americans and many of your potential troublemakers out of town. I hope you understand the short delay and cooperate. We will note publicly your cooperation as Afghanistan’s new rulers. You can say whatever to your own crowd as long as you understand we are staying a little longer.
If you don’t cooperate and your people cause one tiny little problem for us, there will be serious consequences. Remember how we ended the Taliban’s rule so quickly in October of 2001? And sent your party’s founder fleeing on his brother’s motorcycle?
Joe Biden could do that, as his predecessor probably would have plus some bluster.
Or maybe, you know, just maybe, despite this administration’s aggressive evacuation-spin attempts about a success that no one else sees, the evidence is simply accumulating too fast and too deep that Joe Biden is just not up to the job that some Americans blindly gave him because they didn’t like the other guy.
Or maybe that’s not a maybe.