James O'Brien 10am - 1pm
LBC Views: 'The unfolding crisis in Afghanistan is of Joe Biden's making'
13 August 2021, 18:01
It is truly hard to overstate the drama of what US officials have announced here.
All week they have been claiming that there’s nothing inevitable about the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan… nothing preordained about the Afghan military’s collapse.
It was only 48 hours ago that President Biden insisted that the US had given the Afghans all the equipment, money and training that they needed.
The only thing they possibly lacked was resolve.
“They’ve got to want to fight” said the President from the comfort of the White House, as opposed to the terror of coming under a Taliban onslaught.
Twenty-four hours after dismissing suggestions that US intelligence was warning the capital Kabul would fall to the Taliban within 90 days, suddenly, the Biden administration engaged in a U-turn.
Far from bringing US forces out of Afghanistan, they’re now sending 3,000 troops back in…..and keeping another 3,500 troops on standby in Kuwait.
Six hundred British troops will join them, weeks after London warned Washington the President’s withdrawal plan was a mistake.
The White House is unable to say how long US forces will remain... nor offer any precise explanation of the hastily-planned mission, beyond saying they will immediately assist with the evacuation of non-essential civilian personnel from the Embassy in Kabul.
It was only last month that President Biden insisted he would bear no personal responsibility for civilian deaths in Afghanistan as a result of US forces departing.
Now, in a series of Tweets, diplomats at the US Embassy in Kabul say they fear Taliban forces are engaged in war crimes as they seize swathes of territory.
On July 8th - only five weeks ago - in comments that now haunt him, President Biden dismissed out of hand suggestions that the world was about to witness a repetition of the US flight from Saigon as North Vietnamese forces closed in at the end of April 1975.
Haunting, too, his expression of confidence in the Afghan armed forces as he angrily responded to a reporter’s questions about whether he could trust the Taliban.
“It’s a silly question”, bristled the President. “Do I trust the Taliban? No. But I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped and… more competent in terms of conducting war”.
His own commanding officer in Afghanistan, General Austin “Scott” Miller, had a firmer grip on the realities there.
On June 29th, he told reporters in Kabul that the country faced “very hard times” and the prospects of a “countrywide offensive” by the Taliban that could lead to a chaotic civil war.
Now the stage is absolutely set for the departure of an unknown number of American diplomats from the Afghan capital, their own security situation so perilous that it’s going to take thousands of American troops guarding Kabul airport to get them home.
And then what?
For how much longer will the US maintain any kind of diplomatic presence in Afghanistan is unknown.
President Biden left the White House on Thursday afternoon taking no questions from reporters and heading to his home in Delaware.
For months his senior staff have insisted that he has unique experience and capacity to operate in the foreign policy field. But the unfolding crisis in Afghanistan is of his making, and the events we’re witnessing are exactly those that White House officials just a few weeks ago waved off as a potential concern.