[guest post by JVW]
Can anyone tell us what is going on here?
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that the U.S. will continue to evacuate all the Americans “they can” from Afghanistan, although the U.S. is currently unable to “go out and collect large numbers of people” from outside the Kabul airport.
“It’s obvious we’re not close to where we want to be,” Austin said at a press conference at the Pentagon. “We’re gonna get everyone that we can possibly evacuate, evacuated and I’ll do that as long as we possibly can, until the clock runs out, or we run out of capability.”
Austin admitted that U.S. capabilities to venture outside the airport are already limited, however. “I don’t have the capability to go out and extend operations currently into Kabul,” explained the defense secretary.
Americans attempting to reach the Kabul airport must cross through Taliban-operated checkpoints. While Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said the Taliban “are facilitating the safe passage to the airport for American citizens,” the State Department has accused the Taliban of blocking Afghans eligible for special visas to the U.S. from arriving at the airport.
This past Sunday, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken declared that the United States would prioritize safely evacuating embassy workers. According to reports, they have largely been relocated to the airport where they set up operations, presumably safe behind the small contingent of U.S. forces which remains in Kabul. But this says nothing about the 5,000 to 10,000 additional U.S. citizens stuck in Kabul, who have now rather shamefully been informed that they need to make their own way to the airport, though there will be no security presence along that dangerous Taliban-controlled route to maintain their safety.
This is more and more clearly sounding like a colossal SNAFU by the Biden Administration. Why we would remove our troops before we ensured the safety of embassy personnel, contractors, humanitarian workers, journalists, and other American citizens in Afghanistan is one of those inexplicable decisions which should haunt the Administration for years to come, especially if — Heaven forbid — any harm comes to our people before they can be airlifted to safety. And it goes without saying that the Taliban has zero interest in letting us evacuate those Afghans who partnered with us over the past 20 years; reports are coming in that many of them are already being summarily executed once discovered. Team Biden seeks to shift the blame to the Trump Administration, insisting that their predecessors’ May 1 deadline for troop removal hemmed in their options. But given the alacrity with which the new administration jettisoned policies of the old administration in a whole variety of issues from border security to the Nord 2 pipeline to arms sales to Arab countries, it’s pretty hard to see the Trump-negotiated deadline as a serious impediment to an effective and orderly withdrawal.
They are in full damage control now, the Biden Administration is, but they are still floundering in their attempt to present an image of strength and competence. Today at his press conference, the President dutifully read his talking points from a teleprompter, exclusively regarding COVID, for 15 minutes. Once he was finished, and as the usually lickspittle White House Press Corps begin to shout questions about the disaster unfolding at the foot of the Hindu Kush, the President simply turned tail and walked away.
Americans are stuck in Afghanistan and Joe Biden turns his back on questions. pic.twitter.com/yInaBfx3nw
— For America (@ForAmerica) August 18, 2021
Let’s all hope this turns out a lot better than it seems to be unfolding.