AMAC Exclusive By: Joshua Charles
The world justifiably wonders how the tragedy playing out in Afghanistan came to pass. Now former Vice President Pence is speaking out about what he says went wrong. As Pence argues, Biden broke America’s peace deal with the Taliban.
Just a little over a month ago, President Biden confidently stated that “the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country [of Afghanistan] is highly unlikely.” He continued: “There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy.
As everyone has seen, since then, the exact opposite has happened. The Taliban has overrun the country; taken its capital, Kabul; announced it will reinstate a form of Sharia law which in the past proved particularly brutal to both women and children; captured enormous amounts of US military equipment; begun persecuting the Afghan people (including going after Christians); and the former Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, has fled the country.
As he explains, many Americans were unaware of the agreement the Trump administration negotiated with the Taliban last year—the plan that was abandoned by President Biden shortly after he assumed the presidency.
In particular, the Trump deal, announced in February 2020, had one key feature that Biden jettisoned: benchmarking the withdrawal to concrete steps to be taken by the Taliban. Among those conditions agreed to were ending all attacks on the US military, ending the Taliban’s protection of terrorists, and the group negotiating with Afghan leaders on forming a new government.
This agreement was unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council, and over the last 18 months, there has not been a single US combat casualty. Afghanistan was enjoying a level of stability that had not been witnessed since the original US invasion after September 11.
When Biden came in, he announced his own policy. He said US forces would remain in Afghanistan an additional four months, but neglected to tether that withdraw to conditions, as Trump had. In short, Biden broke the deal with the Taliban, stayed longer than promised, and with any limiting conditions on the withdrawal removed, the Taliban initiated a major offensive against the Afghan government, culminating in the collapse the world has witnessed with horror in recent days.
As the former Vice President observed, “They [the Taliban] knew there was no credible threat of force under this president. They’ve seen him kowtow to anti-Semitic terrorist groups like Hamas, restore millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority, and sit by earlier this year while thousands of rockets rained down on Israeli civilians.”
By contrast, Islamic militant groups knew the strength of President Trump’s resolve. He had denied funding to the PLO; he stood with Israel against attacks by Hamas; he bombed Syria’s Assad when he crossed the “red line” articulated by President Obama (who never enforced it himself); and he took out Qasem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, responsible for many American deaths in Iraq and elsewhere.
But it was not just that President Biden broke from the agreement. As is now painfully clear, he did so without any credible plan for getting Americans, and our military equipment out of Afghanistan, enormous portions of which have now fallen into the hands of the Taliban. Just recently, the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff admitted they currently have no means of getting the thousands of Americans who remain in Afghanistan out of the country, nor many of the Afghans who helped us in our fight against the Taliban, who are now gravely threatened by the group’s return to power.
As a result of this catastrophic incompetence, Americans and the world witnessed gut-wrenching scenes of people swarming American military planes—even falling to their deaths after briefly holding on—and, ironically, helicopters evacuating personnel from the nearly $1 billion American embassy compound in Kabul.
And don’t think nations like China aren’t watching. The Chinese state-controlled media outlet Global Times openly mocked Taiwan for relying on American aid for its defense in light of the Afghanistan debacle. “The situation in Afghanistan suddenly saw a radical change after the country was abandoned by the US. And Washington just left despite the worsening situation in Kabul,” it said. “Is this some kind of omen of Taiwan’s future fate?” They ridiculed the idea that America would sacrifice blood and treasure to keep its security commitments to Taiwan, and called on Taiwanese leaders to abandon their reliance on the US.
For a number of years, the American people have broadly agreed that we must withdraw from Afghanistan, in the sense that our nation-building endeavor must end. The same was true in the 1960’s and early 1970’s about the war in Vietnam. But what do we remember? The helicopter evacuating Americans from our embassy in Saigon. Great nations do not measure success simply by whether or not the ultimate goal has been achieved, but how it has been achieved—with honor, or dishonor; justice or injustice; strength or weakness.
This was surely not the exit the American people had in mind.
As former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates observed a number of years ago, Joe Biden has been “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”
I guess we’ll now be adding a fifth.