President Biden’s Afghanistan exit ended with another national humiliation, with perhaps yet more on the way.
After promising less than two weeks ago to stay until every American had been evacuated, Biden left with roughly 200 American citizens still in Afghanistan, according to the administration’s own accounting.
We will learn more in the days ahead about the number and who these Americans are. Secretary of State Antony Blinken portrayed them as largely dual citizens conflicted about whether to leave, whereas Clarissa Ward of CNN reported, for instance, on a Texas family that was blocked by the Taliban from getting to the airport over the last two weeks.
After disastrously underestimating the gathering Taliban offensive and drawing down troops before getting out civilians and diplomats, the administration allowed itself to get bottled up at the Kabul airport, dependent on the Taliban for security. Rather than acting to restore our leverage, by retaking Bagram Air Base or another airfield, the White House rushed to bug out by the August 31 deadline that the Taliban insisted on.
The sheer number of evacuees — more than 115,000 — is impressive, but so long as Americans who wanted to get out were left behind, the operation is shamefully incomplete. Indeed, leaving Americans behind is a low point in the nation’s diplomatic and military history, and a rank failure of the most basic obligation of a government to take care of its own.