As the unraveling of America’s 20-year effort to turn Afghanistan from a place right out of a Flintstones’ cartoon into a democracy spirals downward, the Biden administration finds itself left with few options. Increasingly, there is little room for the White House to maneuver in what looks to all the world like an epic foreign policy blunder. Remember when the American creed was never, ever to negotiate with terrorists? Well, my friends, it appears those days are over.
Mother, May I
The clock is ticking, and the deadline of Aug. 31 looms large before Biden & Company. This was the agreed-upon hour when all U.S. troops were to leave Afghan soil. It is a day the Taliban has been hoping and praying would come to fruition for decades now, so it’s no surprise the group has refused an extension.
Meanwhile, observant politicos are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with President Joe Biden’s language in reference to our sworn enemy. It’s all in the verbs: “We’ve asked the Taliban leaders” or “We’ve promised the Taliban.” These are signals that the United States is under the jackboot of the Taliban and will move forward only with the permission of the terrorists who have taken over Afghanistan. For all intents and purposes, Biden and friends have put the United States in the unenviable position of playing a deadly game of “Mother, May I.”
While the current debacle in Afghanistan dredges up memories of those powerless days of the Iran Hostage Crisis Day Number (1 to 444, pick one), what we witness now is oh so much more cataclysmic. In the world of power plays, the United States is left with few options save to ask nicely. Thus far, it doesn’t seem the gentlemen in the Taliban leadership are in any mood to extend a helping hand. And why should they come down from their catbird seat and bestow a benevolent gift upon their sworn enemy?
This poorly planned and hastily executed withdrawal from Afghanistan has begun a cascade of chaos that will leave a stain on U.S. foreign policy deep and broad, with ramifications we can only speculate about in these nascent days of reputational descent.
If we refuse to jump to the Taliban’s tune, will they begin to take American hostages? Will they start lopping off the heads of U.S. citizens? Will more American military blood need to be spilled in rescue efforts a la Black Hawk Down? Indeed, the no-man-left-behind principle appears to be such a tall order at this point as to be highly unlikely to achieve.
As well, the ripple in the pond extends far beyond our shores. Will our allies be increasingly reticent to join forces on future military operations? Has NATO’s trust in America as a superpower been sullied to the point of no return? The Taliban badly needs the motivation to do the right thing. So, what does America have left in its arsenal to force the terrorists’ hand to play nice in the Afghan sandbox?
Not much. The president has indicated his desire to use American economic supremacy as a carrot to entice the Taliban into putting down its cudgel. However, it is entirely possible – even likely – that China is waiting in the wings to take up that slack. As Liberty Nation’s Managing Editor Mark Angelides wrote on Aug. 23: “And while this form of fiscal diplomacy has shown some surface-level success in the past, with China emerging as a significant player in the area, it is unlikely that the U.S. will be able to compete on a level field.”
With each passing day the stakes rise for thousands of desperate Americans and allies in harm’s way. This is perhaps why Biden keeps going on national television to reassure an anxious American public. However, his continued assurances belie the messy reality of a blockbuster humanitarian crisis flickering across our foreign-made flatscreen TVs. It has become almost too much to watch – babies being flung over barbed wire, reports of people being hanged, Afghans who helped U.S. forces – grown men – sobbing openly on national television. This stuff makes the Saigon airlift seem like a walk in the park.
Meanwhile, tick-tock. Across the pond, the Daily Mail sussed out the developing situation in Afghanistan thusly:
- There are as many as 20,000 people at the airport in Kabul, all waiting to board flights on U.S. or NATO jets.
- The United States does not have the number of Americans who remain in Afghanistan at the airport or in Taliban-held cities.
- Overnight, 10,400 people total were flown out on 28 U.S. flights, an average of 371 people per flight
- The United States insists that people have the right paperwork before they can board a plane.
- The United States has promised to take up to 22,000 Afghan refugees but it can’t issue their Special Immigration Visas (SIVs) fast enough.
- Over the last few days, nameless digital SIVs were issued, which caused chaos because they were replicated en masse.
- Despite the fact that tens of thousands of people were shipped out over the last week, the crowd at the airport is unrelenting.
- Most of them are Afghans who do not have a guaranteed seat on any flight but are hoping to escape.
Try as it might, the Biden administration is desperate to change the subject, which is why the president has held two COVID press conferences in less than a week. Those old enough to remember have seen this tired ploy before, when Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter did much the same thing regarding Vietnam and the Iran hostage crisis. However, history has not been kind to these men, now best known for their foreign affairs failures. While domestic policy usually reigns supreme in U.S. politics, losing a war or humiliating Americans abroad strikes at the heart of our national identity and inevitably becomes the elephant in the room.
Unless Biden pulls a rabbit out of the proverbial hat, it’s likely the debacle of ending the war in Afghanistan will be a permanent stain on his political legacy. Trying to appease the Taliban and dance to its tune only serves to secure Biden a reputation as the most feckless leader to set foot in the Oval Office.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.