This is America’s darkest hour since September 11, 2001. Just weeks before the 20th anniversary of the devastating terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, the U.S. has been humiliated in the eyes of the world.
For once, the fiercely partisan domestic media is united in condemnation of President Joe Biden’s surrender to the Taliban.
Even Fox News and CNN, normally diametric political opposites, are singing from the same hymn sheet.
Americans awoke yesterday to television pictures of desperate refugees falling to their deaths from departing U.S. transport aircraft. It was a chilling echo of the heartbreaking images of those bodies plummeting to earth from the Twin Towers two decades ago.
The chaotic scenes at Kabul airport evoked memories of the last helicopter to take off from the roof of the American embassy in Saigon when the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam in April 1975.
For the second time in half a century, the world’s once undisputed military superpower has been routed by a ramshackle army of irregulars.
The sacrifices of those who fought and died to rid Afghanistan of Al Qaeda and deny terrorists a safe haven from which to launch further attacks on America now seem worthless.
The only recent photograph of the President showed him hunkered down at his Camp David rural retreat, staring at an array of giant TV screens. Pictured: Biden meets virtually with his national security team and senior officials for a briefing on Afghanistan on Sunday
Desperate Afghan nationals tried to run onto RCH 885 as it took off from the airfield on Monday. Some were crushed by the C-17’s wheels and others clung to the fuselage as it took off
Footage published by Afghan outlet Aśvaka showed three stowaways falling to the deaths after clinging on to the wheels of a military plane as it took off from Kabul airport
Yesterday’s powerful Page One headline in the Daily Mail summed up the horrified reaction on both sides of the Atlantic: ‘What the hell did they all die for?’
The U.S. lost 2,300 servicemen and women in Afghanistan, almost as many people as died on 9/11. Many more were gravely injured and traumatised.
For the past 20 years, their mission was successful. There hasn’t been a comparable attack on America since 9/11. Yet now Afghanistan is again open house for Islamist terrorists. There are already reports that British jihadists are heading there, fresh from fighting with Isis in Iraq and Syria.
As the enormity of the consequences of America’s withdrawal sank in yesterday, Biden, nominally Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, was nowhere to be seen.
Sleepy Joe has been asleep at the wheel.
Until he was forced to address the nation last night, Biden hadn’t said a word in public for more than six days.
The only recent photograph of the President showed him hunkered down at his Camp David rural retreat, staring at an array of giant TV screens.
No doubt he kept pressing the remote control, hoping for a different result, like the simpleton Chauncey Gardner, who rises to become a presidential adviser in the Peter Sellers movie Being There. Biden’s deputy, the hapless, giggly Kamala Harris — has been missing in action, too.
Until he was forced to address the nation last night, Biden hadn’t said a word in public for more than six days
As one Republican senator said: ‘The lights are on at the White House but nobody’s home.’ Veterans and the families of those killed in Afghanistan are incandescent with rage.
It’s not as if no one saw this abject humiliation coming. The U.S. military had long been making withdrawal preparations, in the full knowledge that the American people have no real appetite for a never-ending war halfway around the world.
Presidents Obama and Trump both spoke of bringing the troops home, yet thought better of it.
The generals drew up a worst-case scenario but, according to former Tory minister Rory Stewart, an Afghan expert: ‘The option to leave like this was not put to Trump by military and civilian advisers because they were worried he’d choose it.
‘They put it to Biden and to their horror he said yes. No one in the U.S. military thinks this is sensible.’
Despite some lame attempts by Democrats to lay the blame on Donald Trump, who opened talks with the Taliban when he was still in the White House, this debacle is down to Biden.
He managed to convince himself that the 300,000-strong Afghan army was capable of keeping the Taliban at bay. After all, America has spent a trillion dollars training and equipping them. He said it was ‘highly unlikely’ the country would be overrun. But the moment the Americans pulled out, the Afghan army melted away like the snow in summer on the Tora Bora mountains.
Biden also promised: ‘We will not conduct a hasty rush to the exit. We’ll do it responsibly, deliberately and sensibly.’ And he added, rashly: ‘There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of the embassy.’
No, they’re being plucked from the tarmac at Kabul airport.
While the blame is Biden’s, there has also been a massive malfunction on the part of America’s lavishly funded intelligence services.
When everything began to unravel last week, they predicted that it would be at least 90 days before the Taliban would reach Kabul — plenty of time for the Afghan security forces to make adequate preparation to defend their capital city.
In the event, it took a matter of days. The Taliban didn’t even wait until the last U.S. citizen had left. The flag was lowered at the American embassy and the ambassador and his staff forced to retreat to the airport. The Afghan president Ashraf Ghani beat them to it, fleeing the country — but not before stuffing several suitcases with money.
The Taliban actually control more of Afghanistan now than they did before the Coalition invasion.
The Taliban seized nearly all of Afghanistan in just over a week, despite the billions of dollars spent by the US and NATO over nearly two decades to build up Afghan security forces
Be in no doubt, this is a shameful defeat for America, a country responsible for 40 per cent of the world’s total military expenditure.
While the U.S. is capable of devasting displays of shock and awe and rolling over enemies in double-quick time, it hasn’t won any major war convincingly since 1945.
Korea, Vietnam and now Afghanistan all proved a bridge too far. Iraq is a bloody quagmire almost two decades on. How badly misjudged George W. Bush’s vainglorious ‘Mission Accomplished’ posturing looks now.
Biden was in favour of getting out of Afghanistan back when he was Obama’s vice president in 2010, regardless of the fall-out.
Be in no doubt, this is a shameful defeat for America, a country responsible for 40 per cent of the world’s total military expenditure
When he became President in January he was determined to bring the troops home before the 9/11 anniversary in September. He is said to believe that it would boost his flagging popularity ratings in advance of next year’s mid-term Congressional elections.
If he’d managed to pull it off without handing victory to the Taliban, he might have got away with it.
But the shocking images of Americans fleeing the Taliban will inevitably come back to haunt him, just as the broken-down helicopters in the desert during the abortive mission to free U.S. hostages held in Tehran destroyed the presidency of Jimmy Carter.
The TV footage of Taliban fighters hustling round Kabul in captured U.S. Army Humvees and armoured cars has already been greeted with disgust in Middle America. If the U.S. does ever have to return to Afghanistan, soldiers will have to face weapons America has left behind.
Certainly, the American public is heartily sick of war without end. But they were also well aware that stationing troops in Afghanistan, the crucible of the 9/11 attacks, was intended to take the fight to the enemy, and had protected the homeland for two decades.
They are also fiercely proud of their country and will be wounded by the global shame visited upon them by this debacle. Rolling TV news shows and radio phone-ins have been inundated with critics of Biden expressing their revulsion.
Afghan people climb atop a plane as they wait at the Kabul airport in Kabul on Monday
There’s a growing sense of unease — especially on the Right, but also among floating voters who backed Biden over Trump — that the administration expends far too much energy worrying about wokery and culture wars than concentrating on what really matters.
And what really matters to Americans — apart from the economy, stupid — is national security. As well as hunting down terrorists, the military has been diverted towards nation building, imposing liberal Western values on unreceptive foreign societies.
Yes, it’s marvellous that the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan freed women and girls from oppression. But that wasn’t why America — with Britain riding shotgun — went in there in the first place.
The mission was to kill terrorists, smash the Taliban and deny them a base from which to attack the West, not turn Afghanistan into a land fit for Guardianistas. Yet in June, the U.S. embassy in Kabul put out a press release on Twitter urging Afghans to celebrate LGBTI Pride Month.
I bet that went down a storm with hardline Islamists. There weren’t many rainbow flags flying from the Taliban’s pick-up trucks over the weekend.
Aside from the humiliation, what concerns most people is the fact that it appears America can no longer be trusted on the international stage.
Having abandoned Afghanistan, why would any country side with the U.S. in future? The big winners here are Russia and especially China, which is already buttering up the Taliban as it seeks to extend its influence via Afghanistan and Iran into the Persian Gulf.
Taliban fighters patrolled Kabul on Monday as chaos continued at the city’s airport as thousands try to flee the fundamentalist group
Senior US military officials said troops shot and killed two armed Afghans among those trying to get onto the jet while US citizens were evacuated in two separate incidents
Biden has always prided himself on his foreign policy expertise. In which case, you might have expected him to order a more considered withdrawal and at least leave behind sufficient troops and advisers to assist the Afghan army in keeping the lid on the Taliban.
No wonder many people, not just in the Republican Party, are asking whether the 78-year-old President retains the mental acuity to make such sensitive executive decisions. It’s fair to say he has demonstrated bouts of, let’s say, absent-mindedness over the past few months.
Before he travelled to Camp David, he was last seen in public failing to find his way from his helicopter, Marine One, on the White House lawn, to the Oval Office. Despite an aide giving him directions, Biden wandered off into the shrubbery.
Following the fiasco in Kabul, his more vociferous critics will be asking if Sleepy Joe can be trusted as Commander-in-Chief.
After all, who could have predicted that — having expended so much blood and treasure fighting terrorists — the 20th anniversary of 9/11 would be marked by a U.S. president handing back Afghanistan to the Taliban, the murderous ideological allies and enablers of Al Qaeda who carried out those deadly attacks?