The crisis in Afghanistan took another disastrous and bizarre turn over the weekend as the White House, Pentagon, and the Intel community all staked out their own individual assessments concerning their handling of the ongoing crisis.
First up, bemused and hapless Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin appearing Sunday with ABC News’ Martha Raddatz. They discussed the Pentagons intelligence report last month that contradicted President Biden’s claim that a Taliban takeover of the country was not inevitable or even likely.
Lloyd explained, “There were assessments that ranged initially from one to two years to, you know, several months,” he said. “But it was a wide range of assessments. And as the Taliban began to make gains, and we saw that in a number of cases there was less fighting and more surrendering and more forces just kind of evaporating, it was very difficult to predict with accuracy.”
Adding, “This all occurred in a span of about 11 days. Nobody predicted that, you know, the government would fall in 11 days.”
Lloyd was asked if he thought the planning by the White House for the military’s withdrawal was “acceptable and appropriate.” Lloyd’s response, “I do, based upon what we were looking at.”
He continued, “Like everyone else, the president listened to our input,” he said. “Again, he conducted a very rigorous and thoughtful process and he made a decision. And I support that decision.”
The Secretary of Defense’s comments directly contradicts Biden’s July 8th press conference when asked about Afghanistan’s ability to defend itself against a Taliban onslaught.
The president confidently boasted at the time that the Afghan military was one of the best equipped on Earth with over 300,000 U.S. trained soldiers, compared to the Taliban’s 75,000 fighters.
However, when pressed again by a tenacious reporter stating, “your own intelligence community has assessed that the Afghan government will likely collapse,” a defiant Biden fired back “That is not true.”
Biden continued, “They did not reach that conclusion. The Afghan government and leadership have to come together. They clearly have the capacity to sustain the government in place. The question is: Will they generate the kind of cohesion to do it? It’s not a question of whether they have the capacity. They have the capacity.”
Adding, “There’s not a conclusion that, in fact, they cannot defeat the Taliban.”
However, in a brief moment of candor (or perhaps mental lucidity) the 78-year old commander and chief admitted that events “did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated” but that he still stood “squarely behind” his decision to withdraw troops.
This brings us to why the Secretary of Defense and the President thought it was acceptable to withdraw our entire military force ahead of American citizens, Afghan loyalists, NATO allies, and government workers. Instead, they’ve allowed them to be stranded in Afghanistan surrounded by hostile Taliban fighters.
That particular question has yet to be answered by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley. Instead he pointed to the INTEL community rather than the President, Secretary of Defense, or himself for the botched and shameful surrender of Afghanistan.
Like Biden, Milley has attempted to deflect his disgraceful handling of the withdrawal by blaming the intelligence community for not precisely prophesying the exact moment when Afghanistan would fall.
“I have previously said from this podium and in sworn testimony before Congress that the intelligence indicated multiple scenarios were possible,” he said. “However, the timeline of a rapid collapse that was widely estimated ranged from weeks to months and even years following our departure. There was nothing that I or anyone else saw that indicated a collapse of this army and this government in 11 days.”
However, Milley still hasn’t answered for forgetting the most rudimentary principle given to every recruit during basic training; to never leave anyone behind, yet that’s exactly what he did.
Milley along with Austin should have resigned in disgrace or been fired weeks ago. As for Biden, all we have to do is look at the alternatives to realize that’s not the best or most viable option. 2024 can’t come fast enough.