Politics & Policy

Leave No American Behind

President Joe Biden gestures as he speaks about Hurricane Henri and the evacuation of Afghanistan in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, August 22, 2021. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

President Nixon warned against the United States acting like “a pitiful, helpless giant,” but he wouldn’t have been able to fathom events in Kabul.

The Taliban have said that they’re going to hold President Biden to his deadline to withdraw all U.S. troops by August 31, and, after intensive deliberations that delayed his public statement on Tuesday by hours, Biden said he has every intention to leave by the date the Taliban are insisting upon, even though members of Congress and foreign allies are urging him to push past it.

Biden noted that he’s asked the military to come up with contingency plans to stay beyond August 31, but this may only be a fig leaf.

The administration hopes to — and says it can — evacuate all Americans from the country by next Tuesday. There is serious doubt about this, though. Even with the pace of evacuations picking up impressively in recent days (19,000 people flown out over the last 24 hours, with another 10,000 now waiting at the airport), it’s not clear that it’s fast enough to get all Americans out. The White House estimated last week there were 11,000 Americans in Afghanistan and now says 4,400 have been evacuated.

The situation with our Afghan allies appears even worse. Reports suggest that translators and the like have had the most trouble getting through to the airport, and we have not been getting out the Afghans to whom we should be most committed.

There is no doubt that Biden’s ill-conceived and poorly executed withdrawal gave the Taliban the whip hand — literally and figuratively — in Kabul.

Yet a functional and self-respecting superpower would have told the Taliban at the outset of the crisis that we were staying until we got every American and every Afghan ally out of the country, no matter how long it took. The Taliban may have outlasted us over the course of 20 years, but they can’t win a straight-up fight against American firepower and we could have reminded them of this in stark terms.

Instead, Biden has adopted a servile attitude toward the Taliban, never criticizing them, let alone as harshly as he’s rebuked the Afghan military.

If Americans are still in Afghanistan next Tuesday, Biden will be faced with a choice — either abandon our countrymen or ignore the deadline that he, under Taliban pressure, has now doubled down on.

If he leaves Americans behind enemy lines, it will be one of the most shameful derelictions of duty by a commander in chief in our nation’s history, a putrid act that will stain Biden’s memory forever. It was Biden’s recklessness and incompetence that stranded these Americans in Taliban-controlled territory, and it would be his cravenness and incompetence that would leave them there.

We hope and pray that all Americans in the country make it to the Kabul airport by Tuesday. If not, an American president worthy of his office and this nation’s traditions would stay until we can bring them home.

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