By Stephen Bryen
President Biden’s excuse for a press conference trying to lay the blame for the Afghanistan debacle is disgusting. Even if we wanted to leave Afghanistan, there were intelligent ways to do it, giving a chance to the Afghan army to protect the nation.
But we did not do that –in fact we made sure they would fall apart.
Worst still, the Pentagon, the NSC and Biden had to know what would happen when we pulled out the air power that gave them a fighting chance.
We left Afghanistan with a crappy air force with only 19 propeller planes to provide close air support. Almost everything else, from radars, to communications, to intelligence assets, we pulled.
This meant they had to fight blindfolded with junk equipment and no intelligence on the enemy.
We left in the middle of the night. We did not coordinate with our Afghan partners.
The most telling abandonment was Bagram Air base where the US packed up and left. We didn’t even leave the keys to the Humvees and trucks. And we didn’t tell the Afghans we were leaving.
Nor did we ever instruct the Afghans on how the base operated. That was off limits, it seems.
So they were left with a huge sprawling base, no aircraft and no contractor support. We didn’t even leave written instructions. Nothing. “We Gone.”
The Afghans understood immediately they were left to fend for themselves without equipment or knowledge. Biden’s false claim that they lacked the spirit to fight deliberately avoids recognizing the reckless way the Pentagon and the White House decided to extract themselves.
In fact, we even left the State Department and other Americans in the country, especially Kabul, to fend for themselves. If I was a US government employee or a contractor left behind, I would be hugely angry and deeply worried that I can survive the Taliban.
Of course it is much worse for the Afghans left holding the bag, especially those who served in the military or the Afghan government or who were in any way associated with the United States. They have all been abandoned and we know their fate without needing to inquire.
The Biden administration’s claim that the Afghan army was superior to the Taliban is a flat out lie.
If the Afghan army was so superior the Taliban would have been pushed back while we were there. But it was not. Since 2010 the Pentagon has known that we were barely hanging on in Afghanistan, and that our troops and Afghan army troops could do little more than manage a deteriorating stalemate. And maintaining that stalemate required US heavy airpower. Take that away and even if US ground forces remained, they were likely to lose.
So the question arises, is the US pulling out just a cock up run by the Pentagon, or was it a malicious abandonment of US responsibility for the lives of thousands of people who depended on us? Answering those questions is difficult, but when something smells like a rat, it often is a rat.
It would have been undeniably simple to stage a withdrawal that significantly reduced US personnel while keeping up air cover for Afghan forces and handing over intelligence assets and command and control systems so the Afghan army could continue to fight. But the US did nothing of the sort. Sneaking out in the middle of the night not only is a disgrace, but it is an abandonment of colossal proportion.
So when Joe Biden reluctant appearance (from vacation) in front of the cameras, it would have been right for him to tell the truth than to defend his handling of the debacle of his own making (meaning too the handling by the Pentagon, the NSC and others in the State Department who still are peddling a totally false narrative).
Biden makes me sick to my stomach.