The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Biden’s Bagram Bungle

Posted on | August 27, 2021 | Comments Off on Biden’s Bagram Bungle

During yesterday’s press conference, Our Alleged President tried to argue with Peter Doocy. Biden wanted to argue that, because Trump negotiated a deal last year with the Taliban, everything currently going wrong in Afghanistan is Trump’s fault. Doocy wasn’t buying any of that, and in response, Biden seemed to collapse. As Jim Treacher says, “It would be funny if people weren’t dying.” But people are dying, and yet Biden’s “friends” in the Democrat/Media Complex seem to think this is just a regular political issue. What really counts, in their minds, is to prevent Republicans from “pouncing” and “seizing” on the issue; never mind 13 Marines getting blown up because of Biden’s incompetence.

John Sexton examines a typical example, Ezra Klein, who promoted the “inevitable collapse” narrative in the New York Times. The idea is that, whatever the U.S. had done, or whoever was in the White House, the withdrawal from Afghanistan would have been chaotic and messy.

Klein perfectly illustrates a little-appreciated problem in politics, namely the fact that clever people can always come up with persuasive arguments in favor of bad policies. This is how scholastic debate competition works — a yes-or-no proposal is presented, and the two teams basically flip a coin to decide who’s going to argue for “yes” and who will argue for “no.” It doesn’t actually matter what the issue is, the point is to display one’s cleverness in the persuasive arts. After I first came to Washington almost 25 years ago, I quickly realized how foolish it was to confuse such cleverness with actual wisdom. Just because someone is highly articulate does not mean they are right. Anyone can read Andrea Dworkin, for example, and see that she is a very skillful writer, in the same way one must acknowledge that Adolf Hitler was a stirring orator. Both of them, however, were deranged hatemongers. Just because someone writes eloquent prose or is a mesmerizing public speaker, this does not make their ideas any better than if they were illiterate or tongue-tied.

When Biden took office, he had about 100 days before the May 1 date for U.S. withdrawal established by the Doha Agreement. But that ceasefire agreement was contingent on “the Taliban keep[ing] its commitments”:

In January 2021, there were 2,500 US soldiers still in Afghanistan. US President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said that the administration would review the withdrawal agreement. On April 14, 2021, the Biden administration said the US would not withdraw the remaining soldiers by 1 May, but would withdraw them by 11 September. On 8 July, Biden specified a US withdrawal date of 31 August. Other Western forces set their own withdrawal timetables.

In other words, Biden rejected the terms of the agreement that Trump had negotiated, and instead set his own timetable — September 11, a date chosen for its symbolic value. What Biden obviously had in mind was a speech on the 20th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks declaring the success of the U.S. withdrawal. Biden believed that the U.S.-friendly Afghan government would still be in power when this withdrawal took place but — surprise! — the Afghan National Army (ANA) collapsed rapidly after the U.S. shut down its operations at Bagram Air Base:

Retiring General Scott Miller is to blame for the bungled US exit from Afghanistan, a military expert who predicted the fall of the nation’s capital months ago has claimed.
Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at think tank the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, slammed military leadership, telling [the U.K. Daily Mail] he tried to warn the Pentagon of the swift advance of the Taliban towards Kabul in the weeks before they took the city but was ‘ignored’.
Roggio said President Joe Biden insisted on a reduced force of just 700 troops to both keep the US embassy in Kabul open and secure an airport to evacuate the rest of the 3,500 US soldiers, thousands of other Americans and Afghan allies.
As the US commander on the ground and facing the tight constraint, Miller chose Hamid Karzai International Airport in the middle of Kabul for the evacuation, telling US forces to abandon the nearby military airbase of Bagram outside the city.
Miller left Afghanistan in July and is due to retire from the military.
But his fateful decision came back to bite him when the Taliban swarmed into the capital within days, surrounding the airport and frustrating the evacuation of both Americans and allied Afghans, leaving many stranded and at risk of attack.
Roggio is livid that none of the US’s top generals, including Centcom commander General Kenneth McKenzie, appear to have questioned Miller’s plan, which he says was doomed to end in catastrophe.
‘Ultimately it’s Generals Miller and McKenzie to blame for the decision over Bagram,’ Roggio told
‘Miller was the ground commander at the time and proposed the plan, worked on it with Mackenzie, then they pushed it up.
‘The problem here is that no one stood up and said “this is insane.” No one had the vision to say if the Taliban is able to run through Kabul before we execute our withdrawal we’re going to be in a world of hurt.’
Roggio, who was embedded with Marines in Iraq and the Canadian armed forces in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2008, pointed the finger at Miller and his senior colleagues McKenzie, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, and defense secretary and former four star general Lloyd Austin, saying they all prioritized politics and fail to stand up to Biden.
‘Generals ultimately take orders. But at some point a general needs to stand up and say, “Sir, I can’t in good conscience execute that order because I believe it will put American lives at risk”,’ said Roggio. . . .
‘They never believed that Kabul was going to fall. They thought there would be time to get Americans out.
‘Because of that they piled on bad decision after bad decision: how they announced the withdrawal, how they limited themselves to Kabul airport and the embassy, closing Bagram. It all flowed from a complete failure to understand what was happening, while it was happening.
‘But just look at how quickly those estimates changed on the viability of the Afghan government. It went from 1-2 years to six months to weeks, all in the span of a month.’ . . .
Roggio estimated that in order to use the more secure Bagram airbase for evacuations rather than the metropolitan civil airport, Biden would have needed to commit at least 1,000 troops – an idea he said was dismissed as ‘dead on arrival’. . . .
In a press briefing last week Milley revealed the plan to abandon Bagram and use Kabul International for evacuations was devised by Miller – and let slip that the generals were acting on orders to reduce forces down to 700 troops.
‘If we were to keep both Bagram and the embassy going, that would be a significant number of military forces… that may have exceeded what we had, or stayed the same as what we had,’ the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman told reporters.
‘So you had to collapse one or the other. And the decision was made, the proposal was made, from CENTCOM commander [McKenzie] and the commander on the ground, Scottie Miller, to go ahead and collapse Bagram.
‘That was all briefed and approved and we estimated that the risk of going out of KIA [Karzai International Airport, Kabul], or the risk of going out of Bagram, were about the same, so going out of KIA was the better tactical solution… in accordance with getting the troops down to a 600, 700 number.’
Roggio said Milley’s statement was revealing – and was part of an effort to avoid blame for the bungled evacuation.

Bryan Preston has more on the Bagram bungle. This didn’t have to happen, certainly not the way it happened, but Biden wanted the symbolism of that 9/11 speech so badly, you see, that when the conditions on the ground in Afghanistan changed, he refused to accept the reality that our plans needed to change, too.

Now try to think ahead two weeks, and imagine what the situation in Afghanistan will be on Sept. 11. Gonna be a great speech, eh?



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