Joe Biden has blood on his hands and his presidency will not recover
We are slowly learning the full extent of Joe Biden’s culpability for the Afghanistan debacle.
BY Nick Allen IN WASHINGTON
27 August 2021
Joe Biden now has not only Afghan, but American, blood on his hands. And it will stain his presidency forever.
Had the retreat from Kabul just been a shambolic mess his reputation could feasibly have been salvaged, slowly, over the next few years as attention returned to domestic affairs.
Kabul airport will be Mr Biden’s Saigon. His Iran hostage crisis. His Watergate. And it is no one’s fault but his own.
We are slowly learning the full extent of Mr Biden’s culpability for the Afghanistan debacle.
There were those who opposed closing Bagram Air Base, which could have been used for evacuations.
The CIA told him the Afghan army might collapse to the Taliban in a matter of days.
Retired General David Petraeus, who knows a lot more about Afghanistan than Mr Biden, and many others, told him to leave 2,500 troops in the country.
But no, the president didn’t listen to any of them.
For political reasons, Mr Biden was determined to have everyone out before the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
Throughout this chaotic operation, and despite dissent from allies, he seemed to have an unshakable belief that he was right. As one national security official told me, Mr Biden believed it was “my way or the highway”.
For nearly 50 years he has been wrong on a host of foreign policy issues. Now, we have a deadly new chapter in that long litany of failure.
By chance, Mr Biden was in the Situation Room at the White House when news of the terrorist attack broke. It was about 9.40am in Washington.
As this dark day in US and Afghan history unfolded, Americans waited for the president to appear on TV and reassure the nation.
But hour after hour passed with not a word from the Commander-in-Chief. This was not how to show leadership in a crisis.
Eventually, nearly eight hours after the attack, Mr Biden shuffled into the White House East Room. He looked shattered.
His voice was hoarse, his eyes teary. There were long pauses as he spoke.
At one point an inquisitor from Fox News asked him if he felt responsible for what had happened.
Mr Biden clasped his hands and bowed his head as if in prayer. It seemed an age before he raised it again. Eventually he admitted, yes he was responsible. But a moment later, he blamed Donald Trump.
He vowed to “hunt down” the terrorists and “make them pay,” and that pledge will grab the headlines.
But, regardless of whether it happens, the events of Thursday have shaken his presidency to the core.
Republicans are calling for his resignation, impeachment, or removal under the 25th Amendment for being unable to discharge his duties. He is in freefall in the polls.
His presidency has unravelled astonishingly quickly, after just eight months.
“Should Biden step down or be removed for his handling of Afghanistan? Yes,” said Nikki Haley, the Republican former ambassador to the United Nations. “But that would leave us with Kamala Harris, which would be ten times worse. God help us.”
Elise Stefanik, a senior Republican congresswoman, said Mr Biden had “blood on his hands”. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate said terrorists had been emboldened because “our politicians grow tired of fighting them”.
What many, including Democrats, found most shocking about Mr Biden’s disastrous handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal was that US intelligence was being shared with the Taliban.
It emerged that America has been relying on the Taliban to help prevent terrorist attacks at the airport, and to screen for would-be bombers approaching.
“We can’t trust the Taliban with Americans’ security,” said Senator Bob Menendez, the Democrat chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
For Mr Biden the political repercussions of the Kabul atrocity are disastrous.
The idea that he could govern with some bipartisan Republican support is now lost. Some in his own party have come to see him as a liability. And the rest of the world is wondering what awful blunder will come next.