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The White House Has a Serious Management Problem

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

It appears that Vice President Kamala Harris is not the only member of the Biden administration who has a deeply flawed managerial style. Members of the White House staff were reportedly afraid to contradict President Joe Biden and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on the ongoing effort to extricate Americans and Afghans from Kabul.

A report from The Telegraph indicated that Biden’s aides were “too scared” to “question him on key decisions made in the run-up to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.” Sources close to the White House stated that the president was adamant about removing troops from the region before the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He reportedly “ignored warnings that it would not leave the military with enough time to get US citizens and allies out.”

The Telegraph stated that the conversations its reporters had with its sources portrayed Biden as a “stubborn-headed” and “defensive” president who created an environment in which members of his staff were too intimidated to raise objections to his approach. Indeed, a former defense official in “regular contact” with senior White House staffers stated that there were not many opposing views because people were “too afraid” to voice their opinions.

One of these individuals said:

People are simply too afraid to tell Biden (and) Jake Sullivan (his National Security Adviser), they’re wrong. It’s one thing to crack down on leaks (as Mr Biden has done), it’s another thing to allow a mistake like this.

The staffer continued:

This White House is very disciplined, especially when it comes to leaks and such. But the downside of discipline is if you’re running things like an autocracy, and you broker no dissent internally, that’s not what the purpose of a White House staff is.

Other sources said they urged Biden to keep the Bagram Air Base open because it has more runways than the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. The Telegraph pointed out:

With nine days remaining until the US’s self-imposed August 31 deadline and a capacity to evacuate some 5,000 to 7,000 people a day, that would still leave tens of thousands of at-risk civilians trapped in Afghanistan.

It is understood the State Department is now pushing Mr Biden to extend the deadline, even if it means striking a new deal with the Taliban.

The president has been the subject of criticism from both the left and right. Indeed, even the activist media has not bothered to do their usual “defend Biden at all costs” schtick. This report is yet another indicator that his administration is not handling this matter efficiently.

General David Petraeus, who headed operations in Afghanistan under President Barack Obama, chastised Biden for blaming the Afghan army for the rapid resurgence of the Taliban and for saying that allies could leave troops in the region after the United States withdraws.

“Theoretically (Mr Biden is right), but probably not practically,” he told The Telegraph. “In fact, the withdrawal of the other coalition forces from Afghanistan, as the US military withdrew, confirmed the critical role US forces and capabilities play in such missions.”

We already got a glimpse into the management of the White House when Politico published a report in which current and previous members of Vice President Harris’ staff spilled the beans on the toxic work environment she cultivated in her office. But if senior aides are afraid to voice concerns over something as important as the removal of our troops from Afghanistan, then how would they be able to raise objections when it concerns other matters?

The fact that Biden and Sullivan seemed unwilling to brook any type of dissent is telling. Indeed, it is likely one in a series of factors that explain why this administration has been so inept when it comes to dealing with other problems. A president is supposed to have people who can give him the advice he needs to make sound decisions. Unfortunately, a team full of yes men rarely leads to anything resembling good policy.

If Biden had listened to the people he hired to advise him, this situation could have likely been much different. No, it would not have prevented the Taliban from taking over again – Biden was right when he pointed that out during his remarks on the matter. But it would have made for a smoother transition. It could have ensured that American civilians and U.S. allies could have been removed from the region before the Taliban seized control of the country.

As it stands, it does not seem likely that American forces will be able to extricate each American civilian and Afghan ally from the region before the August 31 deadline. The Taliban has already indicated it would not extend the deadline, which means these people could be in danger. Unless the Biden administration develops a solution, this situation could get much worse. Unfortunately, if the president is unwilling to hear opinions that don’t mirror his own, it’s tough to expect things to get better anytime soon.