Biden’s Afghan humiliation is complete

The withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan was supposed to be an orderly and peaceful process. It has, instead, turned into a chaotic rout. American forces are left with a tenuous hold on one single airport, as people crush themselves to death outside, trying to get in. Yesterday, a bomb attack – reportedly by ISIS (yes, them again) – killed several US personnel, and civilians. Biden still insists that the last US forces will be gone in four days’ time, on August 31st. This, of course, guarantees that many Americans, and many thousands of American allies, will be left behind. Not to mention tens of millions worth of American military equipment.

Biden is not leaving Afghanistan. He is running from it.

And, would you believe, the American public are noticing. His approval rating – at a very healthy 60% just a few months ago, has crashed to 41% in one recent poll. His befuddled, confused, and rambling press conference last night will not have helped. For four years, liberal critics of Donald Trump (and, some of us more sympathetic on policy, too) wondered aloud about the threshold for invoking the 25th amendment to the US Constitution, intended to be used to replace the President when he or she is cognitively incapable of doing the job. Curiously, those same voices are silent today, even though only a blind person could fail to notice that Biden is not the man he once was.

Throughout this process, the American President has appeared less a leader, and more a befuddled, and more than slightly confused old man. He has obstinately refused to acknowledge, let alone respond to, the facts on the ground. Just last week, he declared that any attack on the American forces overseeing the withdrawal would be met with a response. Yesterday, they were attacked, and he did nothing. We are left, then, with the sight of a superpower running away. Running away, incidentally, while leaving its own friends to die. We discovered, yesterday, that Biden’s team in Afghanistan handed over to the Taliban the names of thousands of Afghans who had helped the United States over the past twenty years, so the Taliban could assist with “evacuating” them. What will happen, of course, is that many of those people will be rounded up and shot.

It is notable that defences of Biden have all focused squarely on the decision to withdraw. A decision, his defenders point out, that was made by his orange predecessor. “Biden is just following the Trump policy”, they say. That is true, but it is also irrelevant.

The humiliation for the United States is not in withdrawing from Afghanistan. It is not even in losing Afghanistan to the Taliban – though, that is not great either. No, the humiliation derives from the shambolic manner in which the withdrawal was managed.

Nobody, for example, thought to secure more than one airport. There are 16 regional airports in the country. Nobody, apparently, foresaw the rush of refugees. Nobody made any plans – at least, any serious plans – to prevent billions worth of military equipment falling to the Taliban. Some of that will now end up in the hands of the Russians, and the Chinese, adding the billions invested in designing that equipment to the long list of things that this fiasco has cost the United States.

This is precisely the kind of situation that the election of Joe Biden – a man with fifty years of experience in Washington DC – was supposed to prevent. After the alleged chaos and incompetence of four years of Donald Trump, we were told to rejoice and be glad that the adults were back in charge, and that America would become more respected on the world stage. Who, though, could respect this?

The truth is that were this calamity unfolding under Donald Trump, the world’s media would find it very difficult to contain their triumphalism. There would be, make no mistake about this, unalloyed delight at the disaster in many western capitals, proving as it would that the madman in America has no clue what he is doing. But because it is Biden, a man of the western establishment, the most that can be managed across the west is an embarrassed silence, as we all look at our feet rather than meet America in the eye.

It’s a bad sign indeed when Ireland, of all countries, trusts the US evacuation so little that we undertook to send our own army to get our people out. The US has not just abandoned its own people – it has also put friends and allies in an extraordinarily weak position. A position that will not be forgotten.

Under this Presidency, advertised as a Presidency to restore American prestige, that prestige has instead been shattered.

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