Chaotic American exit from Afghanistan requires swift action

President Biden is right that the war in Afghanistan was never a war that our military could win, and that the withdrawal of American troops was and remains the right thing to do.

But he still has much to answer for the catastrophic way in which the withdrawal was executed, not least because of the grim lack of protection and evacuation of the thousands of Afghan allies who have helped American forces: interpreters, contractors, lawyers and journalists who was essentially abandoned and is now in the Taliban’s crosshairs.

In his speech to the US people on Thursday, Biden took no blame for the disaster that has occurred in recent days, although administration officials gave assurances that the US-trained Afghan army and security forces would be able to hold the Taliban. warriors for a year or more. Instead, the Taliban swept the country over the weekend.

Biden said the decision not to relocate earlier was based in part on the Afghans’ unwillingness to leave, and that the Afghan government discouraged a mass evacuation effort for fear it would “trigger a crisis of confidence.” But a far more dangerous crisis arose.

“You can just figure it out,” said Massachusetts Representative Seth Moulton. “It takes a visa 800 days to be processed. So long before Kabul’s fall, we knew based on simple arithmetic that we did not have time to go through the bureaucratic visa process to get our allies out. We had to evacuate them and fix them. the paperwork later. “

Biden is right: It has never been the task of the United States to build or maintain a functioning, effective Afghan government. But the political swamp caused the military mission – two decades with the United States, which supported Afghan forces to keep the Taliban in check at a cost of more than $ 2 trillion and more than 2,400 lost military service members – to crumble to dust in a matter of days.

“The reason why these forces collapsed is because the corruption that was endemic to the Afghan central government had so eroded their bureaucratic confidence and their moral convictions that they were unable to inspire frontline troops and they were out. able to provide themselves with basic bullets and rations, “said Representative Jake Auchincloss of Massachusetts, who was the commander of the Navy in Afghanistan.

The events of the weekend, including the fall of the Afghan capital Kabul to Taliban control, were the result of failures before Biden took office. The Trump administration had ordered a withdrawal to be carried out months ago – without laying any decisive foundations that would have led to a less tragic outcome. There will be time to find out what happened and where the blame lies. But right now, the Biden administration and Congress need to act quickly to solve the chaos on earth.

It begins with regaining control of Kabul airport, which was shut down after being overwhelmed by thousands of Afghans and US personnel seeking to flee the Taliban-controlled capital. While service is occasionally resumed on the military side of the airport, yielding shocking footage of Afghans clinging to the side of planes Sunday as they tried to take off, the civilian side remained closed – and those stranded there , included hundreds of journalists attempting to evacuate.

The United States and its international partners must act immediately to get US citizens and Afghan allies at risk of being killed by Taliban fighters out of the country. (The president’s announcement that he has now approved the deployment of 6,000 US troops to Afghanistan to help with evacuation is a step in the right direction.)

The administration did not listen to a call from two parties months ago by members of Congress to begin bringing American citizens home and evacuating threatened Afghans to Guam to begin the asylum process, but now it is imperative to do so in an emergency. The administration and Congress should also work to expand the refugee program to accommodate those whom the United States promised to protect in return for their service to the military operation.

Finally, the Biden administration must develop and execute an anti-terrorism strategy to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven from which terrorists can plan attacks on the United States or its allies. And it must use every lever it has at its disposal, and the remaining diplomatic influence it maintains with its allies, to pressure Taliban leaders to stop committing human rights abuses in the country, including against women and girls.

In addition, Congress must demand – and officials from the current and former administration must provide – an account of all the factors that led to Afghanistan’s unexpectedly rapid and catastrophic decline.

Biden spent most of his speech Monday arguing that the call to withdraw troops from Afghanistan was right. It is the few who argue for. Now he has to take responsibility for the messy way in which this right-wing strategy was carried out tactically, and move quickly to dampen the chaos.


Editors represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.

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