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Matthew Continetti

Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

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Opinion

Biden’s declining popularity began in Afghanistan

Sep 07, 2023

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In February, 2020, the United States and the Taliban agreed to a ceasefire requiring the U.S. and NATO allies to withdraw all forces from Afghanistan no later than May, 2021. The United States completed the withdrawal of forces on roughly that schedule, evacuating the last U.S. troops in August, 2021. The Afghan national government folded shortly thereafter, symbolized by the Taliban takeover of Kabul itself.

Straight Arrow News contributor Matthew Continetti argues that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, conducted in a manner that concerned even fellow Democrats, was the beginning of the end of President Joe Biden’s popularity.

When historians look back on our era, they will identify the summer of 2021 as the moment the American public turned against President Joe Biden.

During that summer, the crisis at the southern border grew despite the president’s claim that things were under control. During that summer, prices rose despite Biden’s assurances that inflation would be temporary.

Most significantly, on August 26, 2021, 13 American service members died in a terrorist attack amid the panicked, humiliating and unnecessary U.S. retreat from Afghanistan.

Biden’s popularity has yet to recover from the blow it sustained during the Afghan debacle. American morale has not recovered either. The Afghan defeat was an invitation to further provocation, disorder and violence. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping watched as the U.S. government abandoned the democratically elected government of Afghanistan. This self-inflicted blow to American security and international credibility was welcomed in Moscow and Beijing.

Putin no doubt reasoned that if Americans were willing to throw Kabul overboard after 20 years, we surely would do the same to our allies and Kyiv. Six months later, he launched the largest war in Europe since World War II.

Xi Jinping no doubt interpreted Biden’s blunder as further evidence of American decadence. It was another signpost on Xi’s path to invading Taiwan.

 

When historians look back on our era, they will identify the summer of 2021. As the moment the American public turned against President Joe Biden. During that summer, the crisis at the southern border grew despite the President’s claim that things were under control. During that summer prices rose despite Biden’s assurances that inflation would be temporary. Most significantly, on August 26 2021 13, American servicemembers died in a terrorist attack amid the panicked, humiliating and unnecessary us retreat from Afghanistan. Biden’s popularity has yet to recover from the blow, it’s a stain during the Afghan debacle. American morale has not recovered either. The Afghan defeat was an invitation to further provocation, disorder and violence. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping watched as the US government abandoned the democratically elected government of Afghanistan. The self inflicted blow to American security and international credibility was welcomed in Moscow and Beijing.

Put a no doubt reason that if Americans were willing to throw Kabul overboard after 20 years, we surely would do the same to our allies and Keef. Six months later, he launched the largest war in Europe since World War Two. Xi Jinping no doubt interpreted Biden’s blunder as further evidence of American decadence. It was another signpost on Xi’s path to invading Taiwan.

America’s flight from Afghanistan was a taste of things to come. Since then, Biden has evacuated partially or fully embassies in Kyiv, Belarus, Sudan and Egypt where the US Embassy in Kyiv has reopened. But the stain on a reputation remains. As the Taliban retook Afghanistan in August of 2021. Americans learned quite a bit about their leader, President Biden had been in the public eye for close to half a century, yet peculiar aspects of his character were only then starting to surface. The families of the 13 service members killed in action through cold comfort from Biden’s aloofness as well as his callous habit of relating every tragedy, no matter how unrelated to his own experience. In the years to come. Residents of East Palestine Ohio, and most recently Lahaina, Hawaii would feel the same dejection and disappointment.

Biden was dishonest. He said America would continue efforts to bring our people home, the US citizens and permanent residents remain in Afghanistan. These days, the Taliban hunts down and persecutes the hundreds of 1000s of Afghans who assisted us forces, subjecting these freedom fighters to extra judicial killing, and forced disappearance. Biden also said that America’s over the horizon military capability would prevent Afghanistan from becoming a terrorist haven. While Biden deserves credit for ordering the strike that killed al Qaeda co founder Iman al-zawahiri in Cabo last year. The fact that Zawahiri was in Afghanistan in the first place, showed that the Taliban does not operate in good faith.

The original elements of al Qaeda, the terrorist group that struck the United States on September 11 2001, may be decimated, but successor organizations such as the Islamic State of Corizon, or ISIS K have replaced their evil forebears.

According to documents obtained by the Washington Post, ISIS K has plotted multiple attacks on targets in Europe and Asia from within Afghanistan, and over the horizon is too far away for America to do much about it. In his speech to the nation on August 31 2021. Biden also claimed that America would continue to champion the rights of Afghan women and girls

empty words. We’ve done little to stop the Taliban from denying women secondary and university education and equal employment, nor have we prevented the Taliban from barring women from public spaces. To the contrary, US and Taliban officials recently participated in two days of talks. Treating the Taliban as a normal government is a deadly mistake. harboring terrorists and suppressing freedom are not quirks of the Taliban. They are its mission.

And we’ve been here before, willful ignorance and wishful thinking characterize the US approach to Afghanistan the last time the Taliban took it over in 1996. Five years later, the brutal reality was brought home with mass casualty attacks in New York and Washington. The lesson is clear, absent punitive action against Taliban, special assistance for Afghan translators, and a substantive commitment to global security in Europe, the Indo Pacific and the greater Middle East. The situation in Afghanistan will continue to deteriorate. The threat to our interests and to ourselves will grow. Another rude awakening will draw closer to yours on Biden’s Afghan route haunts him still. It haunts the rest of us too.

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