It’s safe to say they aren’t good. With some 10,000 Americans, if not more, still in that country and another 50,000 more Afghans supposedly eligible to be evacuated from the country, it would appear impossible to complete the evacuation mission by the end of August.
Frankly, at the rate this is going it would probably take until the end of the year to get all these people out of there, particularly given the level of cooperation the Taliban have offered since the fall of Kabul. They’ve got checkpoints set up across the city making it impractical for people to make their way to the Kabul airport. And that’s in Kabul. Outside of the capital there are still lots of Americans and others stranded and in hiding; getting them out is something we aren’t even seeing any media coverage of.
It’s a mess of historic proportions. What transpired over the weekend put a very dark tint to it.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to ask U.S. President Joe Biden to keep American boots on the ground in Afghanistan after August 31’s withdrawal deadline but the Taliban say they won’t accept any extension.
Johnson is set to push the American president for more time for evacuation during an emergency summit of G7 countries on Tuesday, according to briefings to journalists by No. 10 Downing Street. The meeting comes as several thousands of people have gathered around Kabul airport in a desperate attempt to escape Taliban rule.
However, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen told Sky News the deadline was a “red line.”
“If the U.S. or U.K. were to seek additional time to continue evacuations, the answer is no,” he said. “Or there would be consequences.”
U.K. Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said earlier Monday that evacuations had been made possible by the presence of U.S. troops and Taliban co-operation.
“If there is no opportunity to extend [the deadline] — either because there’s not the international appetite to do so, or perhaps more likely the Taliban are unwilling to allow us to — then we need to continue with our plans to be out by 31 August,” he told BBC Breakfast.
Late Sunday, Britain’s Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly confirmed the U.K. has already asked the Americans to stay longer. “The thing that I think we’ve all learnt over the last week or so is that the timelines around which we plan are not always completely in our own control. Obviously the more time that we’ve got, the more people we can evacuate and that’s what we’re pushing for,” he told BBC Radio 4‘s Westminster Hour.
Biden said Sunday that discussions around extending U.S. military presence in Afghanistan were taking place, but said that “our hope is we will not have to.” The U.S. has previously said its troops will leave Afghanistan by the end of August. He added U.S. forces had expanded the perimeter around Kabul airport to boost evacuation efforts, and that the Taliban had cooperated.
Three things seem clear right now, and all three are discouraging.
First is that Joe Biden, our non compos mentis president, hasn’t the faintest clue what’s going in in Afghanistan. He’s either being lied to by his staff or he refuses to listen to them when they tell him the truth. He’s gone from believing there is no Al Qaeda presence there anymore, which his own underlings publicly corrected him on, to believing the Taliban were allowing people into the airport unfettered, just before the State Department warned people away from the airport because it isn’t safe. Now he thinks we’ll get all of our people out of the country in a week, which anyone can tell you is a dangerous fantasy.
Second is that Johnson and the other NATO and G-7 allies somehow think that the prospect of international sanctions and/or the withholding of recognition of the Taliban regime somehow matters to them. That’s what you get when you spend all of your time sitting in councils with diplomats and bureaucrats all day and you think your world is the only one which exists. The Taliban couldn’t care less about whether Great Britain recognizes their regime or withholds aid to them. If Afghanistan were to be a Muslim North Korea sans nukes that wouldn’t upset the Taliban in the least. But of course that won’t be the case, because their Afghanistan will gain Chinese support by shopping out mineral resources of things like lithium in return for protection, and they’ll have relations with Pakistan and Iran. So what do they care about the U.S. and U.K.?
And third is the Taliban is not “cooperating” with our efforts to get people out of Afghanistan. If they were, they wouldn’t be ringing that airport. Hell, if they actually wanted to cooperate they would be running shuttles to Bagram Air Base 40 miles from the capital and allowing us an orderly, full-scale evacuation out of that country. The Kabul airport has all of one runway, for crying out loud.
Beating and shooting people who are trying to get into that airport is not “cooperating.”
There are two major concerns here, both of which are brought on by the fact the Taliban leadership knows they’re dealing with the weakest U.S. president in American history.
First, they have all of the leverage. With another president, it would be entirely likely that the 82nd and 101st airborne would be dropping into Bagram to retake it, and then heavy equipment would be rolling out of Bagram to establish a corridor for evacuations – and any effort to impede that corridor would bring airstrikes all over the country aimed at decapitating their leadership. They know that because they’ve seen it. But with Biden, none of that will happen and they know it.
If you think his flippant attitude about this disaster is strange, remember that it’s partially explainable by the likelihood the U.S. has already paid the Taliban with your tax dollars not to engage in wholesale slaughter of every American they find. We’ve already paid a ransom to these people. Nobody has admitted that yet, but it’s really just a matter of time before it surfaces.
Sooner or later the Taliban are going to see that they can keep that spigot open by continuing to interfere with efforts to evacuate Americans and others. As U.S. Rep. Mark Green, a Republican from Tennessee, noted over the weekend, this is the greatest hostage crisis in world history. The Taliban can literally charge us through the nose for every person they let out, and eventually they will – and they’ll begin slaughtering a decent number of people to prove they’re serious. They’ve already established the deadline for using that leverage, and we don’t seem serious about changing their opinion.
Second, let’s remember that at Bagram were 5,000 ISIS and Al Qaeda terrorists who have now been let out of the prison there. Assuredly those terrorists have been armed up, and while they may have some similar affinities to the new rulers of the country they aren’t under Taliban control. What’s to stop ISIS or Al Qaeda jihadists from going on a giant murder spree and killing as many Americans or other Westerners as they can find around that country? Chaos is their friend, and that would be the best way to spread it.
Would it surprise anyone to see social media lit up with videos of executions like the one Al Qaeda did to Daniel Pearl? Frankly, it’s surprising those haven’t popped out.
And what happens then? Exactly what would Biden do about it?
Nothing about this is unacceptable. This debacle has exposed American leadership at the highest levels for incompetence bordering on treason. Or even over that border.
We should never have been in this position. Right now it’s hard to understand how we’re going to get out of it without losing thousands of our countrymen.