The messaging from the Biden administration and the president himself all appear to have amounted to naught. Whether it was promising that all Afghans who helped in the American war effort would be evacuated or dodging real questions in favor of pre-selected softballs, Joe Biden has turned a bad situation into a disaster from which U.S. credibility may never recover.
With the news that the August 31 withdrawal date will not be extended, a number of political chickens have come home to roost. Despite a series of tough-talking appearances, the president has offered little more than equivocation, back-tracking, and half-truths mixed with misleading content.
Who Asked What?
To date, President Biden has taken few open questions from the press on the developing situation. Most questioners have been pre-selected, and as was recently noted by Liberty Nation, Biden was taken aback when a reporter asked a question that was not the one he had written down (he continued by answering the question that had been pre-approved). But the root cause of frustration for the American people seems to be that President Biden is attempting to answer a question that not a single person of note has even asked.
Should America have stayed in Afghanistan? This is the messaging coming out from the president and the administration. And it is one for which the united front in the White House has an answer: No. No more sons and daughters spilling their blood in Afghanistan. Bold words, indeed, but no one is actually asking this particular question. Instead, just about everyone, including the ordinarily supportive Fourth Estate, is demanding to know either why the withdrawal started so late and with such chaotic scrambling, or why Biden can’t organize an extension to August 31.
Deflection is rarely smiled upon by history.
During his August 24 remarks, the president sought to quell concerns that terrorists could be on their way to the U.S. He said, “Anyone arriving in the United States will have undergone a background check — and we must all work together to resettle thousands of Afghans.” While this has so far been an accurate assessment, various issues remain.
For example, of those leaving Kabul on flights organized by the U.S. military, up to 100 evacuees with Special Immigration Visas (SIVs) were flagged by the Defense Department’s Automated Biometric Identification System, and at least one has possible ties to ISIS. These potential threats have not yet been brought to America, but the fact that they made it to Qatar on official flights and have SIVs should be a grave cause for concern.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) spoke to the Defense One news outlet to discuss the burden of such rapid processing, saying, “CBP on the ground has old tech, and they don’t know how to use it, integrate it. And there’s not enough people to process all of the evacuees.”
In 2015, ISIS boasted of sending fighters to Europe under the guise of being refugees; the resultant deaths and atrocities have not, however, dissuaded European leaders from continuing to accept migrants arriving daily by boat across the Mediterranean. That the Taliban – or a resurgent Al-Qaeda or ISIS – would attempt the same brazen infiltration is not beyond the realms of possibility … nor is it something the administration has publicly addressed.
The problem with the screening process in place is that it only flags those who are a known danger, who have a social media presence, or for whom the government has a biometric record. There are an estimated 75,000 Taliban actively engaged in the takeover of Afghanistan. Does the State Department have files on all of them?
The Evacuation Paradox
Perhaps the most significant issue of all is that of the deadline. Despite pleas from G7 leaders to ask for more time, President Biden remains steadfast in his message that the U.S. will be out of the Kabul airport by August 31. The president has also noted that if any harm comes to Americans or Afghan allies trying to leave the country, he will issue a swift response.
Well… It happened. Allies who worked with the U.S. military are being rounded up, and some reports suggest they are being hanged. The Taliban has officially announced that no Afghan citizens – regardless of whether they have a visa – will be permitted entry to the airport. So where is the promised response? White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki takes umbrage when asked about “stranded” civilians, Biden continues to say that everyone who wants to leave will be able to do so, and yet, on the ground, reality has bitten.
Troops are now beginning the process of leaving, an operation that will continue up to the deadline. So the chances of bringing in or processing the tens of thousands awaiting rescue have sunk to near zero. And yet Joe Biden refuses to say that forces will stay until the job is completed. It is more than a display of political cowardice on behalf of the commander-in-chief, it is a humiliation that will embolden enemies in the region to start making the U.S. a prime target once more.
Back in 2018, President Trump upset the Fourth Estate and Democrat politicians by posting an outburst on Twitter directly to the Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani. He wrote:
“NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!”
The caps-ridden warning may have been frowned upon by many at the time, but it demonstrated a firm position and a dedicated commitment to a course of action that the present administration appears to be sorely lacking.
A Reckoning Awaits
The deadline will come and go. Americans and Afghan allies will still be on the ground and subject to the whim and violence of the Taliban. The international community will harbor a grudge against Joe Biden for refusing to negotiate an extension.
In one regard only has the president proven himself up to the task: messaging. By answering questions no one has asked, and deflecting in favor of politically positive narratives, Joe Biden – ably supported by his White House team – has proven himself a master in the field of spin. If he were to just apply a little of this tenacity to keeping his promises, the Afghanistan situation might not be headed for a knife-edge reckoning.
Read more from Mark Angelides.