Politics & Policy

White House Withdrawal Messaging Shifts From ‘The Afghans Are Ready to Lead’ to ‘They’ll Never Be Ready’

Women with their children try to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021. (Stringer/Reuters)

White House deputy press secretary Chris Meagher is citing “the rapidity and ease of the Taliban’s advance” as proof “that [President] Biden made the right decision” by pulling U.S. forces out of Afghanistan.

Over the course of the last week, the Taliban have taken the national capital of Kabul and effectively control the entire country outside of Kabul’s airport.

As the situation on the ground deteriorates rapidly, the Biden administration’s reason for leaving appears to be transforming from “the Afghans are ready to lead” to “the Afghans will never be ready to lead.”

Biden and prominent members of his administration have for months been making the case that the U.S. could finally leave after two decades in country because the Afghan government had the capability to hold off the Taliban without U.S. support. Now, in the White House’s telling, it is the Afghan military’s failure to do just that which justifies U.S. withdrawal.

Talking points being distributed to Democrats by the White House concede that “the administration knew there was a distinct possibility that Kabul would fall to the Taliban,” but continue to maintain that “it was not an inevitability.” The speed with which Kabul fell is further proof that Biden made the right decision in pulling out, the talking points state.

“The President was not willing to enter a third decade of conflict and surge in thousands more troops to fight in a civil war that Afghanistan wouldn’t fight for themselves,” the talking points read. “It’s clear from the past few weeks that would have been necessary — more troops for an indefinite amount of time.”

Asked in July if Taliban rule was inevitable, Biden responded “no it is not,” before going on to assert that “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.”

As compared to the Taliban, Biden stated that the Afghan army was supposedly “better trained, better equipped, and more re- — more competent in terms of conducting war.”

The elected Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, has already fled the country ahead of the August 31 deadline for a full U.S. pullout. Biden assured members of the press that Ghani had “the capacity to sustain the government in place” after that deadline.

In June, Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave his opinion that “whatever happens in Afghanistan, if there is a significant deterioration in security—that could well happen, we’ve discussed this before—I don’t think it’s going to be something that happens from a Friday to a Monday.”

Between August 6 and August 13 alone, seventeen provincial capitals fell to the Taliban.

PHOTO GALLERY: The Fall of Afghanistan

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