Death and Dereliction of Duty in Afghanistan: An Update


Wesley Smith


August 27, 2021

On Thursday, August 26th, a suicide bomber in Kabul, Afghanistan, detonated and killed 13 U.S. military personnel and wounded at least another 15.  Scores of Afghan civilians were killed and wounded.  President Biden, addressing the nation, was without doubt filled with sadness and empathy.  It was a dark day for the nation.  The ten Marines, two Army Soldiers, and one Navy medic were not involved in a combat mission.  They were engaged in a noble humanitarian task—assisting desperate men, women, and children as they try to flee violence and protect their families.  Showing compassion and mercy, these U.S. troops were shown no mercy or compassion by evil and maniacal Islamic terrorists.  

The world is watching the precipitous and poorly executed withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan, the graveyard of empires.  This is a defining moment not only for the presidency of Joe Biden, but for the reputation and standing of the United States in the world. Our allies are watching, as are our adversaries. Our allies are confused and confounded.  Our adversaries are encouraged and emboldened. While most Americans support the withdrawal of troops from this primitive and war-torn country, the implementation of the exit is a dismal failure—one that was avoidable and is filled with tragedy.

President Biden is deservedly facing criticism from Democrats, Republicans, and our allies in NATO.  The truth of a statement by former Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is painful to hear and sadly accurate:  President Biden apparently “had no plan.  He has no urgency, and he won’t take responsibility.”  The Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful nation on the planet is beholden to the Taliban, our sworn enemy, and is relying on the graces and goodwill of this terror organization to evacuate U.S. citizens and those who supported us in Afghanistan for the last 20 years.  It is shameful.  It is naïve.  It is unnecessary. 

The likely next Chancellor of Germany called the withdrawal a “debacle.”  In the United Kingdom, the House of Commons characterized what is going on as “shameful, cruel and humiliating.”  Yet, last Sunday, President Biden claimed our graceless exit as somehow enhancing U.S. capabilities and resolve in other places of the world.  In other words, he’s actually claiming our abject failure in Afghanistan is a plus—it allows the U.S. to focus on other regions and indicates how committed we are in other places.   

That is both naïvely wishful on its face and disingenuous rhetoric at its base.  The mistakes of the mission to withdraw from Afghanistan keep multiplying, now with deadly consequences.  Few disagree with the decision to end this 20-year war. However, the execution—the details—of this decision are a calamity of the worst kind.  And yet, it seems, the President is stubborn and relentless in his mishandling of the situation and will not accept the advice of his supporters and is oblivious to the genuine concerns of both his supporters and his critics.

For example, one month ago the President said it was highly unlikely that the Taliban would quickly take over the country and scoffed at the idea of it being like the end of the Vietnam War.  Now he declares that he knew all along that the chaos and ugly fall of the Afghan government was a real possibility—that what we are now witnessing was unavoidable.

The U.S. abandoned the largest air force base in the country at Bagram.  It was the logical and most efficient air base from which to evacuate civilians, and it was easily defended.  Biden says his generals were unanimous that we did not need that air base.  The airport in Kabul, where our service members died, is surrounded by an urban area and our personnel there are now also surrounded by terrorists.  Personally, I doubt that any senior military officer would advise that we give up the strategic installation at Bagram, to say nothing of the weapons, vehicles, and aircraft we left there for the Taliban.  Any military leader who gave him that advice should be fired.  If they told the President not to give up Bagram and he did it anyway, the senior leaders should have resigned in protest.  By the way, Bagram contained one of the largest prisons in Afghanistan.  When the U.S. gave it up, the Taliban freed the 5,000-plus inmates—many of them members of al-Qaeda and ISIS.

President Biden gave a date-certain for U.S. forces to leave the country.  Exits like this, after a 20-year conflict, should not be decided by a calendar.  The withdrawal should have been based on an orderly process of evacuating U.S. civilians first, our Afghan helpers next, our military weapons and equipment and, finally, our troops.  One can promise to leave expeditiously; you do not tell the enemy the actual date you will be gone.  President Biden stated it was his military advisers who told him he should stick to the August 31st withdrawal date.

Shockingly, in President Biden’s remarks to the country after the death of U.S. troops last Thursday, he vowed to do two things:  First, he said he would not change August 31st as the date all military personnel will leave and the evacuations stop.  Secondly, he stated that even if not all U.S. citizens have been evacuated, we will still leave on that date.  He believes we can work with the Taliban and use leverage to get the rest of our fellow-citizens out later—no worries!  He even believes that the Taliban will also release the Afghan translators and others who assisted the United States at a future date also.  Never mind that some Taliban fighters have already been going door to door to find and kill Afghans who helped America.  More shockingly, he intends to abandon Americans in Afghanistan in order to keep faith with the Taliban on the date he promised we would leave.

We are using the Taliban to guard the perimeter of the airport where our troops were killed.  The Taliban delegated this responsibility to the Haqqani network.  This is one of the most violent terror factions of the Taliban—made up largely of former members of al-Qaeda.  The head of Haqqani actually still has a 5-million-dollar bounty on his head by the FBI. Is this how the suicide bombers got past the Taliban’s outer perimeter to kill 13 Americans? 

But wait, there is more:  The Biden Administration gave to the Taliban the names and locations of the Afghan citizens who helped us.  Why?  They want the Taliban to pick them up for us and bring them to the airport for evacuation.  The Biden team just put everyone of these Afghan citizens on a potential kill list. This is careless and dangerous naiveté.   

President Obama’s Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, wrote that Joe Biden has been on the wrong side of virtually every foreign policy decision for over 40 years. But now he is no longer a Senator or even the Vice President of the U.S.  Joe Biden is the President and Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful nation on earth.  And his wrong decisions are deadly—and a threat to the security of the United States.

What we are witnessing in Afghanistan is not a withdrawal—it is a surrender.  It is a retreat that is spiraling out of control.  People’s lives and livelihoods are on the line. 

Our allies and our adversaries are watching. Radical Islam is once again on the rise.  The Taliban has taken over the entire nation of Afghanistan.  ISIS and the Taliban—normally enemies—have been united against their common enemy: The United States of America.  Once again, al-Qaeda is finding sanctuary in Afghanistan under the protective umbrella of the Taliban. 

Meanwhile, Iran is closer than ever to possessing a nuclear weapon.  China has demolished democracy in Hong Kong and is likely to take Taiwan by force—calculating that the Biden Administration would not use force to stop them.  Russia is trying to dictate where we can place military units in the Middle East.  Russia and China have kept their embassies open in Afghanistan.  Our embassy there has been abandoned and on the 20th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11, the Taliban flag will be flying over that former U.S. facility.  Who could have imagined all this even a few years ago?