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The Broader Questions Aside, President Biden Has Disastrously Botched this Withdrawal

President Joe Biden eats ice cream during a visit to Cleveland, Ohio, May 27, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Those who are defending the debacle in Afghanistan seem to believe that there is only one important question to ask here: Namely, should the United States have withdrawn per se? In reality, though there are two questions. The first: should the United States have withdrawn per se? The second: how should the United States have withdrawn?

This afternoon, I am reading that “the U.S. is racing to airlift diplomats and citizens out of Afghanistan after the Taliban overran most of the country and entered the capital early Sunday.”

Why?

Surely, it must be possible to believe that the United States should have got out of Afghanistan — indeed, to believe that the United States should have left the country completely — without believing that it was a good idea to do it in this order? Why on earth did the United States pull its military personnel before its citizens were all out? Before the diplomats were out? Before we had extracted every civilian we wanted to come back to the United States with us? Before we’d removed any military hardware that might fall into the Taliban’s hands? Before we had shredded any sensitive documents? Before we let the thousands of the dangerous prisoners we’ve spent the last twenty years rounding up join right back up with their friends?

Just as he should be, Joe Biden is in charge of this details in this area of American foreign policy. And, as the papers have made abundantly clear, this plan was his call and his responsibility. That he has botched it this disgracefully should appall everyone in equal measure, irrespective of their broader views of whether — and when — we should have left.

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