Siobhan Bahl discusses Biden’s decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, and what this means for his approval.
The US has completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, after a 20 year campaign in which 2,400 Americans died, the last planes departed from the tarmac at Kabul airport.
The Department of Defense released a tweet showing the ghostly green image of the last American soldier Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue leaving Afghanistan. In the last 24 hours of the operation, American military evacuated 1,200 people on 26 flights, fulfilling Biden’s campaign promise to end America’s longest war.
Biden has stood firmly behind his decision, defiantly describing the evacuation effort as a huge “success”. For Biden this was not only “the right decision” but “a wise decision, and the best decision for America”.
However, the celebratory gunfire released by the Taliban as the US left Afghanistan soil, the undeniable fact that the Taliban have conquered and displaced the US, and the deadly terrorist attack in Kabul which catalysed a frenzied rush to wrap up evacuations, undermines Biden’s idea of ‘success’.
Nonetheless, Biden has stood firmly behind his decision citing the withdrawal as a release for the US from the long shadowy grip of the ‘war on terror’. Biden decided enough was enough, after $1 trillion dollars spent on training the Afghan army, 20 years of involvement and intertwinement with the corruption and incompetence woven into Afghan politics, not to mention the lives spent, it was time to quit a war which for Biden was unwinnable.
The undeniable fact that the Taliban have conquered and displaced the US, and the deadly terrorist attack in Kabul which catalysed a frenzied rush to wrap up evacuations, undermines Biden’s idea of ‘success’.
But just because the US is no longer actively fighting the Taliban, doesn’t mean the page has fully been turned on the Afghanistan chapter. Biden’s war is now beginning and it will be defined by how America, from civilians to politicians, will judge Biden’s withdrawal operation.
Biden’s presidency promised to usher in a new era which veered away from the staunch ‘America First’ dogma of Trump’s administration. His campaign promised to collaborate and employ greater empathy with America’s foreign relations. But for someone who sought to shape himself as America’s new ‘empathetic leader’, the Biden seen in the past few weeks has been cold-hearted, set in his own rationality and locked into fulfilling his own goal. Remind you of anyone?
Moreover, he refuses to admit he has been wrong. Remember his declaration “the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely”. Well, that prediction didn’t stand the test of time.
As August 30th approached President Biden’s approval ratings dramatically dropped from 51.3%, when the Taliban was yet to capture a single provincial capital, to 46%. Biden now has the lowest approval ratings than any other post-war US president. While Biden has claimed to have finally brought a war which has bled across three presidencies to an end, the war in the minds of the public is far from forgotten. Reports of left allies and Americans, including work dogs, and the chaotic images on Kabul runways has stained the aura of the competence Biden sold to the electorate. Moreover, the disparity between published images and reports from Kabul and Biden’s own words of a smoothly running evacuation, has unsettled general trust in the truthfulness of Biden’s speeches.
Reports of left allies and Americans, including work dogs, and the chaotic images on Kabul runways has stained the aura of the competence Biden sold to the electorate.
Off the back of Trump whose whole presidency was coated in ‘alternative’ and ‘false’ truths, manipulating words and fictionally crafted reports on American policies and actions, this wasn’t what Biden needed to regain public trust in America’s governing leaders.
Biden miscalculated the ease of the Afghan withdrawal, and the additional 13 deaths of US troops in Kabul’s suicide bombings has given Republicans ammunition to fire at Biden’s judgement, writing a narrative of neglect which they will carry through to the next midterm elections. Now Biden not only faces criticism for handling of the coronavirus pandemic, rebuilding the economy, but also this.
What is particularly damaging to Biden’s reputation is the extent to which he seems to be dodging responsibility for his decisions, counteracting his own statement “I take responsibility for the decision”.
What about the hundred-plus American citizens that didn’t make it out? Biden says they had enough warning, and their dual citizenship justifies being left behind.
What about the far earlier fall of Kabul and the underestimation of military intelligence on the Taliban’s capabilities? For Biden this has nothing to do with the US, pointing to the Afghan army as failing to prepare.
The coming months will be telling of the damage which Biden’s ‘best decision’ has brought forward. Certainly his next movements will define whether Biden sits on the right side of history for ending America’s ‘forever war’.