In the wake of the deadliest day for U.S. troops in more than a decade, the question on concerned lips is whether President Joe Biden is either capable or willing to do what is necessary. Despite his tough talk at the podium coupled with misty eyes, the commander-in-chief failed to demonstrate leadership and fell short on offering a solution to the increasingly dangerous situation in Kabul.
A tragic series of poor decisions and blunders led to the horrifying deaths of 13 American military personnel. There were so many steps where the president could have changed course, but through either hubris or incompetence, Biden pushed on despite warnings, oblivious to criticism or a sense of responsibility.
The Stirring Speech That Never Was
Attempting to address the August 26 suicide bomb attacks, Biden sought to channel former President George W. Bush in the wake of the September 11 travesty. Bush memorably said that “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.” Those who harbored al-Qaeda were the Taliban, and, rightly or wrongly, thus began the war in Afghanistan. President Bush kept his word, yet it seems President Biden has no intention of even trying to keep his promise that “We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”
With the administration’s stance toward the Taliban, how can Biden ever make good on his promise for justice? Referring to the terrorist group as “partners” and stating publicly that the U.S. military relies on it for airport security suggests this group – that the American military had been waging war against for almost 20 years – bears no responsibility in the deadly events of August 26. The reality, however, is that the Taliban does not consider the U.S. an ally. In fact, the real partners of the Taliban include al-Qaeda and ISIS.
But, But, But… ISIS-K?
Responsibility for the two attacks was claimed by ISIS-K (or ISKP), who Biden has described on numerous occasions as a “sworn enemy” of the Taliban. But this view is as simplistic as it is dangerous. ISIS-K came to prominence in early 2015, and within months was recruiting disaffected Taliban members. Just two months after ISIS-K/ISKP’s formation, the Taliban leader at the time wrote a public statement to the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, saying, “Jihad against American invaders and their slaves in Afghanistan must be under one flag, one leadership and one command.”
As was revealed in 2020, the terror attack at the Sikh shrine in Kabul, which left 25 dead, had been carried out by a team of cooperators from both ISIS-K and the Haqqani Network, a Taliban special forces squad. ISIS-K claimed responsibility for that attack, but it was carried out with help from the Taliban. So how can these two groups that share a similar ideology, work together to kill innocents, and share many of the same members, be described as “sworn enemies”?
The former Afghan interior minister wrote last year that “Haqqani & the Taliban carry out their terrorism on a daily basis across Afg & when their terrorist activities does not suit them politically they rebrand it under ISKP.” That the United States military and intelligence services did not know this is highly unlikely, leaving only one feasible evaluation: Biden knows the Taliban were either directly or indirectly responsible for the bombings and has chosen to let it slide.
Aiding The Enemy?
The missteps under Biden’s leadership do not stop at merely distorting the truth to hide political embarrassment. Reliable reports suggest that through a series of blunders, the administration has put lives in Afghanistan and back home in America at risk.
As reported by Politico, three U.S. and congressional officials related that lists had been handed over to the Taliban, including names of Americans, green card holders, and Afghan allies. Ostensibly, the names were handed over so the Taliban guards stationed around the airport would know to let them through. But multiple reports of Taliban going door to door and murdering those who worked with the Americans appear to have been ignored. With all of the rhetoric on saving Afghan allies who helped the war effort, handing over their details to those who wish them dead may have resulted in numerous executions.
When questioned on this at yesterday’s press conference, Biden prevaricated but ultimately admitted that it may have happened.
And let’s not forget that all of the biometric data on those who aided the U.S. military over the last 20 years was just left behind and is now in the hands of the Taliban. So even if those seeking escape can get false papers, their biometric data will give them away.
Cometh the Hour?
President Biden has not risen to meet the challenge of the Afghan withdrawal. With his obfuscations, inability to heed warnings, and stubborn intent, has he also proven that he can not meet the challenges of the presidency? Calls for either his resignation or impeachment are mounting hourly from those both in and out of government.
Specific moments give the measure of a leader; Joe Biden has so far stumbled at each of these hurdles and is refusing to stop and re-evaluate. He has set himself on a course that will abandon thousands of allies to the cruelty of the Taliban; he has absolved the tyrants of their responsibility in the murder of U.S. troops, and ultimately, he has shown himself to be unworthy of the challenges of leadership.
Read more from Mark Angelides.