President Joe Biden has been taking a lot of incoming flak from critics, Republicans, nattering nabobs in the rightwing media, and even some members of his own party for America's rather messy exit from the war-that-would-never-end, Afghanistan.
Here's what I say.
Those who sit on the sidelines and bash him for what he's done need to shut up.
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Yes, the execution of the withdrawal was messy, but how could it not be? Not only did the U.S. have to deal with the Taliban, thousands of Afghans clamoring to get out, and terrorist attacks by ISIS-K, they did it against a deadline and in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.
And, that's probably just the tip of the iceberg.
As former Biden critic Mehdi Hasan said in an opinion piece on MSNBC, "Yet as of Tuesday evening, Biden has done something that three previous presidents either wouldn’t or couldn’t: ended the longest war in American history. The last U.S. troops left Afghanistan on schedule and ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks."
And then, Hasan wrote this: Biden "stood up to the generals."
Hasan wrote that in 2017, Donald Trump wanted to wind down the war in Afghanistan, but national security adviser H.R. McMaster wanted him to do the opposite -- send in more troops. So, McMaster apparently played to Trump's penchant for sexy women and reportedly presented him “with a black-and-white snapshot from 1972 of Afghan women in miniskirts walking through Kabul, to show him that Western norms had existed there before and could return.”
It worked, wrote Hasan, adding, "Trump, who before entering the White House had called the war a “total disaster” and said the U.S. “should leave Afghanistan immediately,” agreed to escalate troop levels."
Previously, Hasan noted, President Obama, at the urging of his generals, signed off on sending 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. That came after Vice President Biden, according to Obama's memoir, urged the president "Don't let them jam you," speaking of his generals.
Now, Hasan added, that while Biden after being elected President could have scrubbed the February 2020 agreement Trump signed with the Taliban to withdraw all forces this year, he didn't. He could have listened to his military advisers who wanted him to keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, but he didn't do that either.
"Biden didn't let them "jam" him," Hasan wrote. Instead, he announced that all U.S. troops would be gone by Sept. 11, 2021.
Then, of course, came the Taliban's fast takeover, with Afghanistan's president running for cover and chaos erupting in and around the Kabul airport, including the ISIS-K attack that claimed the lives of 13 American troops. The howls from his critics grew louder.
Smith added, "But Republicans smell blood, having until now struggled to find an effective line of attack against Biden as candidate or president. Although foreign policy rarely decides US elections, the critiques have fuelled a pre-existing narrative that the 78-year-old does not have “the right stuff”."
For now, at least, the GOP attacks on the president appear to be working, as his approval rating is dropping and there are calls for his resignation, while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and others call for his impeachment.
But the bottom line is this More than 100,000 people were evacuated from Afghanistan since mid-August, including all but 100 or so U.S. citizens who wanted to leave. The critics say Biden and his people should have prepared better, that the evacuation was sloppy at best, catastrophic at worst.
Nevertheless, Biden made good on his promise and we are out of Afghanistan, a quagmire that has cost thousands of American lives and trillions of U.S. taxpayer dollars, all for a mission that was doomed from the beginning.
Said President Biden the day after Kabul fell, “How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghans — Afghanistan’s civil war when Afghan troops will not? How many more lives — American lives — is it worth? How many endless rows of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery?”
President Biden promised to get America out of Afghanistan and end that 20-year war. He kept his promise. And for that, he deserves great credit.