The most immediate consequence of the militia’s blitzkrieg across Afghanistan is a political disaster for President Joe Biden who ordered all American troops out but failed to orchestrate an orderly withdrawal.
Pessimists have warned about a Saigon-style helicopter retreat from the US embassy for a while now. But most didn’t really think it could happen. Until Sunday.
It now looks almost impossible that the US will succeed in extracting all the Afghans who acted as translators and fixers and in other roles for its forces over 20 years — and who face an awful fate if they are left behind. Former President Ashraf Ghani’s flight and the melting away of Afghan forces trained with billions of US and allied dollars without a fight — finally exposed the myths that Washington had allowed it to believe about “success” in the country.
Ironically, those failures served to prove Biden’s rationale for leaving — that no amount of US blood and treasure could ever make Afghanistan a functioning, unified nation — at least the one dreamed of by US foreign policy planners. Like Iraq and Libya, Afghanistan has found out that in the modern era, America’s zeal to get into wars is only exceeded by its rush to get out of them, no matter the mess that is left behind.
Also spare a thought for the families of Afghan civilians killed by misdirected US fire. Or the relatives of Americans and allied troops from Canada, Britain, Italy, Australia and elsewhere who perished or left limbs on Afghan battlefields.
America’s global reputation is meanwhile in for a shredding. The President who just toured Europe promising that “America is back” after the poison of the Trump years is presiding over a humiliating defeat. And Biden’s vows to fight for global democracy are now undermined by his own abandonment by a US-backed democratic government in Kabul.
It’s not all Biden’s fault. He’s carrying the can for the messy exit. Four US administrations tried covert warfare, bombing blitzes, occupation, nation building, troop surges, counter-insurgencies and troop drawdowns on Washington’s arbitrary timetables. It all led up to today.
The question “what was it all for” is best answered by another one: Was US intervention ever going to end any other way?
‘This is not Saigon’
“This is not Saigon,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union,” when asked about President Joe Biden’s July assertion that under no circumstances would US personnel be airlifted out of Kabul in a replay of the US withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975. Yet the US scrambled to evacuate embassy staff and top officials from its diplomatic compound in Afghanistan Sunday as Taliban fighters entered the city and some Afghan government officials — including former President Ashraf Ghani — abandoned their posts and fled the country.