Withdrawal From Afghanistan: As America’s longest war has drawn to an official close, over 100 Americans and tens of thousands of Afghan allies still remain in the country. Here’s what both sides are saying. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Top Story: Withdrawal From Afghanistan
On Monday, the United States completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, ending America’s longest war just hours ahead of President Joe Biden’s Tuesday deadline. Over 120,000 people, mostly Afghans, were evacuated from the country, however, more than 100 Americans and tens of thousands of America’s Afghan allies were left behind. The Taliban is now in control of the country and will have to figure out a way to deal with terror groups like ISIS-K. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday that “a new chapter of America’s engagement with Afghanistan has begun” adding that “the military mission is over and the diplomatic mission” is just getting started. Here is the reaction to the end of America’s longest war from both sides:
On The Left
Left-leaning outlets and commentators have mixed emotions. As you’ll see below, some think leaving so many people behind is a “moral disaster” while others think that these critics are “getting it mostly wrong.”
“America is leaving thousands of people behind in Afghanistan. This is a moral disaster.” Editorial Board, Washington Post: “Enormous as it is, the number of people evacuated by air from Kabul since the end of July — about 122,000 — is not large enough. … Many thousands of people did not [get out], including former US interpreters and their families… This is a moral disaster, one attributable not to the actions of military and diplomatic personnel in Kabul — who have been courageous and professional, in the face of deadly dangers — but to mistakes, strategic and tactical, by Mr. Biden and his administration. … Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that the United States still has “significant leverage” over the Taliban. If so, the Biden administration must use it, relentlessly, until every Afghan with a legitimate claim to refuge has found it.”
“There’s chaos and risk in Afghanistan exit, but Biden critics are getting it mostly wrong” David Rothkopf, USA Today: “The intellectual dishonesty in critiques of how President Joe Biden is handling the US departure from Afghanistan has been off the charts. That’s not to say some of them are not warranted. But some of the arguments we are hearing are indefensible.” [First] Biden does not own this, “The authors of 20 years of war own this.” [Secondly], “America [did not abandon] our allies. … Some of those allies left before we did. Canada left in 2014 but has returned in recent days to help with the evacuation.” [Thirdly] … The evacuation was [not] bungled. …It started off badly but turned out to be masterful. The administration and the military adapted quickly. The airlift is one of the biggest in US military history… [Fourth] It is wildly unrealistic to think the United States could remove everyone at risk from Afghanistan… [Fifth] Biden was [not] part of the problem… [he] has been arguing to wind this down for 12 years. When he was vice president, his view was overruled by President Barack Obama. … Bottom line: The airlift is a major logistical achievement. Tragically, in exiting a war like this, some chaos and deaths were inevitable. But getting out was right – and long overdue.”
“Joe Biden ended the war in Afghanistan after 20 years. That’s a BFD.” Mehdi Hasan, MSNBC: “Biden has done something that three previous presidents either wouldn’t or couldn’t: ended the longest war in American history. … Biden has also done something that no other president has managed to do in living memory: He has stood up to the generals. … President Joe Biden didn’t lose this war. It was lost in October 2001, when President George W. Bush refused to accept the Taliban’s offer to hand over Osama bin Laden to a neutral third country, and in December 2001, when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld refused to accept Taliban surrender terms. … It was lost as US politicians, diplomats and generals, as the Afghanistan Papers revealed, “failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan… He may have been wrong about Iraq in 2003, but Biden is right about Afghanistan in 2021. … America’s longest war is over. … To borrow a line from the president himself, it’s a ‘BFD.'”
On The Right
Right-leaning outlets and commentators can’t comprehend why so many Americans were left behind. They attribute the botched withdrawal to many parties including the media, Democrats, and military leaders. Ultimately they believe the decision-making came from the top, however, and that an examination of the events needs to happen immediately through which people are held responsible.
“Last Flight From Kabul” Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal: “…This was a shameful day in American history, no matter how much the White House wants to spin it otherwise. Aug. 31 was the arbitrary deadline Mr. Biden set when he thought he would be able to boast on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 that he had ended a ‘forever war.’… His deadline meant that the evacuation failed as much as his withdrawal strategy did. An unknown number of Americans—perhaps a few hundred—weren’t able to leave on the last flights. … The catalogue of strategic and military misjudgments that led to this ignominious day are many, and they flow from the current President of the United States. … He insisted on leaving Bagram and other airfields, taking US contractors who were needed to keep the Afghan air force flying. … Mr. Biden and his aides have been repeating like a mantra that there will be time for assessing responsibility for what went wrong and why after the evacuation ends. That should start immediately. A national-security calamity of this magnitude demands an accounting, and it should start at the top.”
“Our Afghan Nightmare: Tanks for Nothing” Victor Davis Hanson, American Greatness: “The blame for this sordid mess is threefold: 1) The media that knew Biden was debilitated and so covered up that fact to carry the candidate across the finish line in November. 2) The Democratic apparat that envisioned Biden lasting just long enough (the country be damned) to provide the needed cover of a sharply left-wing agenda. 3) The Pentagon’s top brass, active and retired, who for years leaked about and obstructed Trump, sought to toady up to the press in its ‘wokeness,’ and posed as speaking truth to power, but have now gone strangely silent … Joe Biden thinks August 31, 2021, is the ‘end’ of Afghanistan. In fact, it is a new beginning of yet another chapter in the much despised ‘war on terror.’ But this time around, the Taliban are victorious. They have been reinvented as the best-equipped jihadist nation in the world… The Chinese are debating now whether to ramp up the assault rhetoric against Taiwan… The Russians are pondering which exposed NATO country or which former Soviet republic might be probed and dissected … Kim Jong-un is considering replaying his old role of rocket man… [and] Iran … believes this is the most opportune time in 20 years to announce that it is or will soon be nuclear.”
“Joe Biden’s Critics Lost Afghanistan” Ross Douthat, New York Times: “…The withdrawal’s shambolic quality, culminating in [Monday’s] acknowledgment that between 100 and 200 Americans had not made the final flights from Kabul, displayed an incompetence in departing a country that matched our impotence at pacifying it. There were aspects of the chaos that were probably inevitable, but the Biden White House was clearly caught flat-footed… Biden deserves plenty of criticism. But like the Trump administration in its wiser moments, he is trying to disentangle America from a set of failed policies that many of his loudest critics long supported. Our botched withdrawal is the punctuation mark on a general catastrophe, a failure so broad that it should demand purges in the Pentagon, the shamed retirement of innumerable hawkish talking heads, the razing of various NGOs and international-studies programs and the dissolution of countless consultancies and military contractors. Small wonder, then, that making Biden the singular scapegoat seems like a more attractive path. But if the only aspect of this catastrophe that our leaders remember is what went wrong in August 2021, then we’ll have learned nothing except to always double down on failure, and the next disaster will be worse.”
Flag This: Withdrawal From Afghanistan
According to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Monday, “less than 40% of Americans approve of President Joe Biden’s handling of the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan, and three quarters wanted US forces to remain in the country until all American civilians could get out,” Chris Kahn and James Oliphant report. “The national survey, conducted Aug. 27-30, found that 51% disapproved of Biden’s approach to the pullout while 38% approved.”
While researching what both sides were saying for today’s edition, we came across a monologue from Bill Maher, HBO’s host of “Real Time.” The liberal comedian scolded woke ideology that espouses, “America is rotten to the core.” Liberal progressives like Maher tend to align with “woke” ideology, which is why we thought his rebuke was noteworthy. Maher said, “If you think America is irredeemable, turn on the news. … There’s a reason Afghan mothers are handing their babies to us. … We’re not the bad guys.” Click here to watch the whole thing.
Flag Poll: Withdrawal From Afghanistan
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