President Joe Biden, July 8: “It’s a silly question. Do I trust the Taliban? No. But I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped, and more re- — more competent in terms of conducting war.”
The New York Times, this morning: “In a matter of days, the Taliban have overtaken six provincial capitals in a land offensive that has led many local officials to abandon their posts and flee the cities they administer… The scale of the humanitarian crisis is likely to grow in the coming days and weeks, especially as the Taliban extend their reach over more territory.”
Whether you support U.S. withdrawal or oppose it, our policy should be based upon a clear-eyed assessment of what is happening and what is most likely to happen — and our leaders have an obligation to level with the American people about the consequences of our actions. The Afghan army is not “better trained, better equipped, and more competent in terms of conducting war,” as the president claimed one month ago. It was an absurdly unrealistic assessment then, and it is absurdly unrealistic assessment now. It would be nice to blame a speechwriter, but the president’s assessment of the Afghan army came when Biden spoke off-the-cuff. It is difficult to believe that Biden’s intelligence briefings are telling him that the Afghan army is “more competent in terms of conducting war” and likely to hold off the Taliban.
Biden also pledged July 8, “we are developing a counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States in the region, and act quickly and decisively if needed.” Are we? Or is this just happy talk designed to make the withdrawal look like a wiser and safer decision than it is?
It is fair to wonder how much the president really knows what is going on.
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