President Biden rejected a new 2000-page investigative report from the U.S. Army confirming his administration’s disastrous handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. The findings are unequivocal. It was a White House horror show. The Army’s lengthy report echoes the findings of Republicans on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that pilloried Biden’s failure of strategic planning for the Afghanistan retreat. Perhaps the most emblematic comment and portrayal of the Afghanistan debacle was that of Marine General Frank McKenzie, the chief of U.S. Central Command.
According to the Stars And Stripe’s republication of a recent article in a Washington, D.C. newspaper, McKenzie, speaking of the chaos in Kabul, offered this excuse, “There are profound frustrations; commanders, particularly subordinate commanders, they see very clearly the advantages of other courses of action…might have been other plans that we would have preferred…but when the president makes a decision, its’ time for us to execute the president’s decision.” The general’s words are the worst display of the “Good Soldier” phenomena.
Most of the time, we expect our military to be good soldiers. Get an order, execute that order. But there is a flip side to the good soldier disposition. That is mindlessly doing what you’re told when all the indicators point to a better course of action. More important than doing what you are told is doing what is right. There is also a misplaced grasp of loyalty implicit in McKenzie’s words. Loyalty isn’t being an automaton.
Loyalty means giving your superior your best military advice and counsel. After all, the commander-in-chief hired you with the expectation that your counsel would be valuable. However, when lives are on the line and your counsel is rejected, then you have no recourse but to resign. And Mr. Biden did reject his commanders’ counsel. No one resigned.
True to form, President Biden not only rejected sound counsel, but also the report called his decision-making into question. According to The Hill, reporting an NBC interview with President Biden, “Asked if he was rejecting the accounts or conclusions of the report, Biden replied, ‘Yes, I am. I am rejecting them.’” Then, in defense of his decision to get out, the chief executive reverts to a non sequitur, saying, “There was no good time to get out; they [presumably his senior commanders] acknowledge we would have had to put a hell of a lot more troops back in.”
But that isn’t the point of the army’s analysis. There may not have been a good time to get out. But there was an opportunity to do it right – without the White House-driven chaos. As Liberty Nation has reported, the date the Biden team chose for withdrawal, August 31, 2021, was Biden’s date. No one issued him that date.
Again, based on The Hill reporting, when the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, was asked about the report, she responded, “There was a range of contingency planning that was done in close coordination by all of the players on the national security team at the time to prepare for a range of options and a range of outcomes.” What was not planned for was that the same level of ineptitude and incompetence in strategic decision-making was resident in those doing the planning.
Typical of the concerns voiced in the Army’s comprehensive report were those expressed by Navy Rear Admiral Peter Vasely, the flag officer commander on the ground in Afghanistan during the withdrawal. Vasely complained to the investigators that the White House had failed to prepare adequately. In a New York Post recounting of the Army’s investigation, the admiral explained, “if policymakers had paid attention to the indicators of what was happening on the ground,” the operation would have gone more smoothly. The fact that Washington paid too little attention to the Taliban’s rapid advancement through the country “undermined commanders’ ability to ready their forces.”
Additionally, what has become a predictable failure of the State Department to appreciate their precarious position under adverse circumstances, the U.S. embassy leadership in Kabul appeared clueless. As the New York Post explained, Vasely – who took over as commander from Army four-star General Austin Miller, a former Delta Force commander – was warned by Miller “there would be resistance among senior embassy officials to reducing the diplomatic presence in Kabul. Among the objectors were acting U.S. Ambassador Ross Wilson, who feared a loss of U.S. influence if the staff was pared.” The question begged is, what influence? When confronting the acting Ambassador with the reality of his situation, one military official told the investigators Vasely, “was trying to get the Ambassador to see the security threat for what it really was. The embassy needed to position for withdrawal, and the Ambassador didn’t get it.”
President Biden is free to reject, if he wants to, the findings and conclusions of what is an exhaustive chronicle of his national security team’s utter malfeasance and dereliction in carrying out an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan. But Americans should be very apprehensive. This is the same national security team managing the Ukraine border crisis with Russia and U.S. relations with China.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
~ Read more from Dave Patterson.