Evacuation of US Embassy in Kabul complete

On Saturday morning, the President and Vice President held a videoconference with the National Security Team to discuss efforts to reduce the American civilian footprint in Afghanistan – photo courtesy of the White House

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden and other senior U.S. officials have been stunned by the pace of the Taliban’s near-complete takeover of Afghanistan as the planned withdrawal of U.S. forces has become urgently needed. a mission to ensure a safe evacuation.

the speed of the collapse of the Afghan government and the ensuing chaos posed Biden’s most serious test as commander-in-chief, and he faced harsh criticism from Republicans who said he had failed.

Biden campaigned as a seasoned international relations expert and spent months downplaying the prospect of a rising Taliban while saying Americans of all political persuasions are tired of a 20-year war, a conflict that has demonstrated the limits of money and military might to force a Western-style democracy on a society that is not ready or willing to embrace it.

On Sunday, however, high-profile administration figures admitted to being caught off guard by the extreme speed of the collapse Afghan security forces. The challenge of this effort became apparent after reports of sporadic gunfire at Kabul airport prompted Americans to take cover while awaiting flights to safety after the full evacuation of the airport. American Embassy.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday that Afghanistan had collapsed faster than the administration expected, and blamed the fall of the government on the Afghans themselves.

“Certainly the rate at which cities have fallen has been much faster than expected,” Sullivan said Monday on NBC’s “Today.”

But he said the United States ultimately could not give Afghan security forces the “will” to fight to defend their fledgling democracy against the Taliban.

“Ultimately, despite the fact that we spent 20 years and tens of billions of dollars to give the best equipment, the best training and the best capacity to the Afghan security forces, we could not give them the will and they finally decided they weren’t going to fight for Kabul and they weren’t going to fight for the country,” Sullivan said.

The unrest in Afghanistan re-emphasizes an unwelcome way for a president who has largely focused on a domestic agenda that includes exiting the pandemic, securing congressional approval for billions of dollars in government spending, infrastructure and the protection of voting rights.

Biden remained at Camp David on Monday, receiving regular briefings on Afghanistan and holding secure video conferences with members of his national security team, according to senior White House officials. His administration released a single photo of the president on Sunday alone in a conference room virtually meeting with military, diplomatic and intelligence experts.

President Biden speaks with Secretary Blinken, Secretary Austin and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan about ongoing efforts to safely reduce the civilian footprint in Afghanistan - photo courtesy of the House White
President Biden speaks with Secretary Blinken, Secretary Austin and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan about ongoing efforts to safely reduce the civilian footprint in Afghanistan – photo courtesy of the House White

Sullivan said Biden would speak on Afghanistan “soon,” but gave no timeline. Biden has been in presidential retirement from Camp David, and largely out of public view, since Friday. He was to stay there until Wednesday.

“At the right time, he will absolutely speak to the American people,” Sullivan told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Biden is the fourth US president to face challenges in Afghanistan and has insisted he will not entrust America’s longest war to his successor. But the president will probably have to explain how security in Afghanistan has deteriorated so quickly, especially since he and other members of the administration insisted that this would not happen.

“The jury is still out, but the likelihood of the Taliban invading everything and possessing the whole country is highly unlikely,” Biden said July 8.

Just last week, Biden publicly expressed hope that Afghan forces could develop the will to defend their country. But privately, administration officials have warned the military is collapsing, prompting Biden on Thursday to order thousands of U.S. troops into the area to expedite evacuation plans.

An official said Biden was more optimistic about projections that Afghan fighters will hold off the Taliban in part to prevent further erosion of their force’s morale. It was ultimately for nothing.

Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump also aspired to leave Afghanistan, but eventually resigned in the face of resistance from military leaders and other political concerns. Biden, on the other hand, has been firm in his refusal to change the August 31 deadline, in part because of his belief that the American public is on his side.

An ABC News/Ipsos poll in late July, for example, showed that 55% of Americans approved of Biden’s handling of the troop withdrawal.

Most Republicans did not push Biden to keep troops in Afghanistan long-term, and they also backed Trump’s own push to leave the country. Still, some GOP members are stepping up their criticism of Biden’s exit strategy and said Sunday footage of US helicopters circling the US Embassy in Kabul evoked the humiliating departure of US personnel from Vietnam.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell called the withdrawal scenes “the embarrassment of a superpower being laid low.”

No additional measures were planned beyond the deployment of troops Biden ordered to help with evacuations. Senior administration officials believe the United States will be able to maintain security at Kabul airport long enough to extricate Americans and their allies, but the fate of those who cannot get to the airport is far from certain.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who has backed the Biden administration’s strategy, said in an interview that “the speed is a surprise” but would not call the situation a intelligence failure. He added that it had long been known that Afghanistan would fall to the Taliban if the United States withdrew.

“Given how much we’ve invested in the Afghan military, it’s not ridiculous for analysts to believe they would be able to fight for more than a few days,” Murphy said. “You want to believe that trillions of dollars and 20 years of investment mean something, even if it doesn’t match the ability to defend the country in the long term.”

In the upper ranks of Biden’s staff, the rapid collapse in Afghanistan only confirmed the decision to leave: if the collapse of Afghan forces came so quickly after nearly two decades of American presence, six months or a year or two or more to have changed nothing.

Biden has argued for more than a decade that Afghanistan is a sort of purgatory for the United States. He found him corrupt, addicted to America’s largesse, and an unreliable partner who should be left to fend for himself. Its purpose was to protect Americans from terrorist attacks, not to build a country.

As vice president, he privately opposed Obama’s sending 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in an effort to stabilize the country so that the United States and its allies could then withdraw their forces.

As president, Biden said in July he made the decision to step down “with clear eyes” after receiving daily battlefield updates. His judgment was that Afghanistan would be divided in a peace deal with the Taliban, rather than fall all at once.

“There will be no circumstances where you will see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy in the United States from Afghanistan,” he said in July. “The likelihood of there being a unified government in Afghanistan controlling the entire country is highly unlikely.”

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