In Defending Afghanistan Withdrawal, Biden Gets the Mission Wrong

As more Americans come to terms with what the Trump-Biden withdrawal from Afghanistan means (namely, the enemy winning), the rationalizations have begun to explain the disaster away. We’re told over and over again that a Taliban restoration won’t be that bad or was somehow inevitable. President Biden has himself attempted the former (of sorts), as noted by Brian Karem in The Bulwark.

Now Biden admits that it is “unlikely” that there will ultimately “be one unified government in Afghanistan controlling the whole country.”

That is as close to admitting the Taliban will be involved in governing the country in the near future as Biden dares to get…

Yet like those who are more open about admitting the Taliban’s restoration is in the cards, Biden is busy trying to explain it away.

He described our two reasons for having been in Afghanistan: “One, to bring Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, as I said at the time. The second reason was to eliminate al Qaeda’s capacity to deal with more attacks on the United States from that territory. We accomplished both of those objectives—period.”

Biden is wrong on both counts.

First, killing bin Laden was not a reason to liberate Afghanistan per se. The Cold War should have taught us that the death of a leader is not the death of an enemy. Even the Nazis fought on for a week after Hitler killed himself. Al Qaeda was and is more than its founder. Killing bin Laden certainly helped with the mission of defeating al Qaeda, but it wasn’t the mission. Biden is trying to hype-up the 2011 operation during which he was Vice President, which is fine for domestic political consumption, but not so much when it comes to implementing actual foreign policy.

The second error is far worse, however. Biden insisted that our efforts “to eliminate al Qaeda’s capacity to deal with more attacks on the United States from that territory” were a complete success. He could not be more wrong.

This stems from a fundamental (and in many cases, deliberate) misunderstanding about the Taliban and al Qaeda. For years, if not decades, Americans have cheerfully told themselves that the Taliban and al Qaeda are separate organizations whose alliance can be dissolved with just the right pressure or incentives. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Actual experts in the region have been telling us – repeatedly – that al Qaeda and the Taliban are joined at the hip. Dr Sajjan Gohel of the Asia Pacific Foundation put it thusly: “The Taliban is inseparable from al-Qaeda, with cultural, familial and political obligations from which it will remain unable to fully abandon, even were its leadership sincere in seeking to do so.”

That wasn’t all he said either:

“The Biden withdrawal from Afghanistan makes a Taliban takeover inevitable and gives al-Qaeda the opportunity to rebuild its network, to the point where it could once again plot attacks around the world,” Dr Sajjan Gohel, a security and terrorism analyst, told the BBC. (Emphasis added)

In other words, we have not accomplished the objective Biden says we have.

I’m sure Joe Biden genuinely believes that twenty years is long enough for a military engagement. Most Americans would and do instinctively agree with him, at first. I suspect (read: hope) that those Americans would change their tune if they realized the alternative to continuing the war was outright losing it.

Donald Trump was and Joe Biden is choosing to surrender Afghanistan to the Taliban and to al Qaeda. When that becomes more clear to the American people, they will be far, far less likely to look kindly upon their joint decision.

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