There was a time, not so long ago, when Democrats became extremely agitated if they thought the president of the United States was calling a foreign leader to persuade him to take action that would benefit the president politically. In fact, this was considered such a serious abuse of power that it warranted immediate impeachment. That was then, of course, before January 20, 2021, when the standards for presidential conduct abruptly changed.
Joe Biden should consider himself very fortunate that, on the day of his inauguration, Democrats in Congress decided that perhaps they were judging presidents too harshly and, for the sake of fairness, should cut Donald Trump’s successor a little more slack. Had House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) not made that magnanimous decision, articles of impeachment would already have been drawn up for Biden.
Forget the sheer hypocrisy of leaning on a foreign leader for political gain after supporting Trump’s impeachment when he allegedly did the same thing; Biden’s call to former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani encapsulated his incompetence, apathy, and obsession with how others judge his vastly overhyped political and diplomatic skills.
Psaki Changes Her Tune on Presidential Calls
Though a vocal proponent of investigating every aspect of the famous 2019 phone call between then-President Trump and the Ukrainian president, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki brushed off the Biden-Ghani call during a September 1 press briefing. Not only that, but she had the nerve to address the matter as if it were inappropriate for reporters to even bring it up. “I’m not going to get into private, diplomatic conversations or leaked transcripts of phone calls,” she responded when asked about the controversial call, transcript excerpts of which had been published by Reuters. The inference was clear: This is a matter of presidential privilege and high-level diplomacy – how dare you mention it?
But the real story here is not the Democrats’ hypocrisy, which is revealed anew on an almost daily basis as it has been for several years, at least. Nor is this a story about how Biden’s sole concern, as he attempted to end the American presence in Afghanistan, was perception – how the American public and global leaders would judge his handling of the situation. The most important issue at hand – one that arises directly from the leaked transcript of the phone call between Biden and Ghani – is the catastrophic failure, in the White House, at the Pentagon, and within the U.S. Intelligence Community, to understand how little resistance the Taliban assault would meet from Afghanistan’s government and military forces.
The White House has claimed that contingency plans were prepared for various scenarios, including a rapid collapse of Afghan government forces. Clearly, though, that was not the case. During the July phone call between the two leaders, Mr. Biden gave the Afghan president no indication that the U.S. was either prepared – or willing – to deal with rapid Taliban gains. Instead, his singular aim was to coerce Ghani into creating the perception of a unified Afghan resistance to the terrorist army:
“I need not tell you the perception around the world and in parts of Afghanistan, I believe, is that things aren’t going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban.
“And there’s a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.”
Additionally, and also revealed in this phone call, there was Biden’s obvious unwillingness to commit any American effort or military assets to slowing the Taliban advance unless Ghani was able to “project a different picture.”
Years of Failure at the Pentagon?
Administration officials have claimed there was no way to predict the speed of the Taliban takeover and, more specifically, the unwillingness of most Afghan military forces to stage any meaningful resistance. After 20 years of training and operating with the Afghan National Army, there is no way the Pentagon could not have been aware that, in the absence of U.S. military support, the government forces of that country were completely incapable of standing up to a large-scale Taliban offensive.
It is almost certain that those U.S. military personnel and contractors who patrolled with and trained Afghan soldiers on the ground were painfully aware of how incapable the Afghan military really was. Still, senior Defense Department officials had obviously spent years denying reality for the sake of the perception that the mission in Afghanistan had been progressing successfully. In the words of Mr. Biden, “there’s a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.”
At the Wednesday press briefing, Psaki told reporters “no one” anticipated “that the Taliban would be able to take over the country as quickly as they did or that the Afghan National Security Forces would fold as quickly as they did.” Psaki and her boss obviously believe this is a good excuse. It is not. These events should have been anticipated. That is what senior military commanders and intelligence officials get paid to do. That they failed and still have jobs is yet another indication that, like former President Barack Obama, Biden simply cannot be bothered with matters of foreign policy or national security.
As for the phone call itself, no one will be talking about it three weeks from now – certainly not Jen Psaki, for she is blessed with a condition common to almost everyone on the political left, including the man in the Oval Office: a stunning lack of shame and self-awareness.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.