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National Security & Defense

Was It ‘Inevitable’ That We’d Hand the Taliban a Kill List?

Taliban forces patrol a street in Herat, Afghanistan, August 14, 2021. (Stringer/Reuters)

When people — by which I mean a supermajority of Americans — say that they oppose the disastrous manner in which the withdrawal from Afghanistan has been handled, this, from Politico, is the sort of thing they’re talking about:

U.S. officials in Kabul gave the Taliban a list of names of American citizens, green card holders and Afghan allies to grant entry into the militant-controlled outer perimeter of the city’s airport, a choice that’s prompted outrage behind the scenes from lawmakers and military officials.

The move, detailed to POLITICO by three U.S. and congressional officials, was designed to expedite the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan as chaos erupted in Afghanistan’s capital city last week after the Taliban seized control of the country. It also came as the Biden administration has been relying on the Taliban for security outside the airport.

But the decision to provide specific names to the Taliban, which has a history of brutally murdering Afghans who collaborated with the U.S. and other coalition forces during the conflict, has angered lawmakers and military officials.

“Basically, they just put all those Afghans on a kill list,” said one defense official, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic. “It’s just appalling and shocking and makes you feel unclean.”

This was not “inevitable.” It is not “inextricable from the war.” And it has nothing whatsoever to do with the broader question of whether or not we should keep a presence there. It’s an astonishing mistake, made after a series of other astonishing mistakes, by a deeply incompetent man.

Nor was this “part of the plan all along,” as Joe Biden made clear in his July 8th press conference:

Q    Mr. President — do you trust the Taliban, Mr. President?

Q    Is a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan now inevitable?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, it is not.

Q    Why?

THE PRESIDENT:  Because you — the Afghan troops have 300,000 well-equipped — as well-equipped as any army in the world — and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban.  It is not inevitable.

Q    Do you trust the Taliban, Mr. President?  Do you trust the Taliban, sir?

THE PRESIDENT:  You — is that a serious question?

Q    It is absolutely a serious question.  Do you trust the Taliban?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I do not.

Q    Do you trust handing over the country to the Taliban?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I do not trust the Taliban.

That Taliban, which Joe Biden does not trust, now has the names “of American citizens, green card holders and Afghan allies.” Not because that’s what one is obliged to do when one withdraws from a war zone, but because this administration, by getting the order of things completely and utterly wrong, has totally cocked it up.

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