One of the problems that Joe Biden inherited from his predecessors when he became President was the two decades long war in Afghanistan. And he made it clear that he was determined to make certain that it wasn't handed down to another president.
Biden's goal was strewn with obstacles placed in his path by Donald Trump, whose abysmal deal with the Taliban has been lambasted by his own National Security Advisor as a “surrender agreement,” that lifted all sanctions on the Taliban and freed 5,000 of their imprisoned fighters, including their leader.
Not one to be deterred by reality, Trump is still hammering away at Biden with blatantly dishonest representations of the situation now unfolding in Afghanistan. He released a statement on Tuesday via his spokes-shill, Liz Harrington (whose proxy Trump tweeting is violating Twitter's rules against circumventing a ban), that sound more like a madman on a street corner yelling at passing cars than a diplomat:
“Biden surrendered Afghanistan to terrorists and left thousands of Americans for dead by pulling out the Military before our citizens. Now we are learning that out of the 26,000 people who have been evacuated, only 4,000 are Americans. You can be sure the Taliban, who are now in complete control, didn’t allow the best and brightest to board these evacuation flights. Instead, we can only imagine how many thousands of terrorists have been airlifted out of Afghanistan and into neighborhoods around the world. What a terrible failure. NO VETTING. How many terrorists will Joe Biden bring to America? We don’t know!”
There's a lot to unpack in that hysterical harangue. Starting at the top, Biden did not surrender to terrorists. That was Trump. And Biden has not left a single American for dead, much less thousands. Trump appears to have ingested some powerful hallucinogens.
Moving on, Trump is surprised that 26,000 of the evacuees were Afghanis. He apparently doesn't know that there are far more Afghans in Afghanistan than Americans. He also doesn't seem to know that thousands of them served our troops loyally and bravely and deserve to be rescued from a dire fate at the hands of the Taliban. Trump is actually repeating the very same racist lines that he previously used on Mexican refugees, implying that they are all criminals being “sent” to America by wily foreign governments.
What's more, Trump is outright lying (surprise) about whether these Afghans are vetted before being evacuated. This question was raised at the White House daily press briefing by Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy. Which gave press secretary Jen Psaki yet another opportunity to publicly humiliate him. Doocy asked a loaded question suggesting that there are suspected terrorists among the evacuees. Psaki replied saying that…
“We have a stringent vetting process, which includes background checks before any individual comes to the United States. So I can’t speak to one individual, but I can tell you and confirm for you that we take the vetting of any individual who comes to the United States and comes out incredibly seriously and it’s an extensive process.
“I would say that this is now on track, Peter, to be the largest airlift in US history. And that is bringing American citizens out. It is bringing our Afghan partners out. It is bringing allies out. So, no, I would not say that is anything but a success.”
Doocy, masochist that he is, persisted with another question suggesting that because Biden is hoping to stick to the August 31 date for the withdrawal to be completed, that the Taliban had “the same kind of influence over military planning as the Commander in Chief?” And once again, Psaki had to set him straight:
“Well, first of all Peter, the Taliban’s deadline was May 1st, struck in a deal with the prior administration. The President’s timeline was August 31st. That’s the timeline he set, and a period of time he needed in order to operationalize our departure from Afghanistan.”
Anyone who had even a glancing knowledge of these matters knew that the Taliban and Trump had agreed to a May 1st exit date. So it's just a demonstration of his ignorance that Doocy didn't know that the August 31 date was Biden's decision, not the Taliban's. And Biden is preserving the option to extend that date if conditions on the ground require it. The Taliban has no role in that decision making process.
It's clear from Trump's remarks that his plan was to leave behind both Americans and Afghans. He had not initiated any operations to evacuate anyone prior to his evacuation from the White House, even though there were only three months between his exit and May 1st. That may have been his purposeful attempt to hamstring Biden, or it may have just been his incompetence and negligence.
Either way, Trump has no right to complain about how things are turning out. Just the fact that the Biden team has evacuated 70,000 people since August 14 is a testament to what competent leadership can achieve. And he did it while also dealing with a surging pandemic (also Trump's fault) and a busy legislative agenda that included bills to provide relief payments to the American people, a historic investment in infrastructure, and an effort to preserve voting rights.
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