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Douglas Andrews / May 24, 2022

Revisionist Scapegoating on Afghanistan

An interim report on our nation’s failure in Afghanistan tries to pin it on — you guessed it — Donald Trump.

When we heard about the newly released interim report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which concluded that the collapse of Afghanistan into the hands of the Taliban was mostly the fault of Donald Trump and only partially the fault of Joe Biden, we weren’t at all surprised. That’s the foreign service, we thought. And it just has to be the fault of the “America First” president.

And then we thought about the following passage from The Forever War, the 2008 book by Dexter Filkins:

I was using a translator, and Sakhi, numb and depressed, kept using the Dari words barcha, which meant “spear,” and tabar, which meant “ax.” I still have the words in my notebook. … I asked what the Taliban fighters had done, and Sakki told me, in the lifeless way that he was speaking, that the Talibs were doing with the barcha what anyone would do with such an instrument, they were pushing them into people’s anuses and pulling them back out of their throats.

No wonder the Afghan National Army folded like a cheap suit. No wonder the nation’s U.S.-backed president, 72-year-old Ashraf Ghani, eager to avoid the barcha treatment, stuffed a helicopter full of cash and skedaddled to neighboring Uzbekistan. “Four cars were full of money,” said a Russian embassy spokesman in Kabul, “they tried to stuff another part of the money into a helicopter, but not all of it fit. And some of the money was left lying on the tarmac.”

Volodymyr Zelensky he ain’t. And we spent 20 years, and we sacrificed massive amounts of blood and treasure to nation-build in this country? And our failure there is somehow Donald Trump’s fault, the guy who finally put an end to the once-noble endeavor that had long since become a wasteful and deadly charade?

“Failure has a thousand authors,” writes National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty. “A cursory reading of the latest report from [SIGAR] has led people to conclude that the full collapse of Afghanistan into the hands of the Taliban is the fault of Donald Trump, with a little assistance from Joe Biden. This is the independent reporting body empowered by Congress to get the story straight. Foreign Policy summed up the top-line finding: ‘Former President Donald Trump’s bilateral deal with the Taliban, and President Joe Biden’s decision to stick to it, caused the disintegration of Afghanistan’s security forces.’”

The SIGAR website tells us that it provides “independent and objective oversight of the $146.40 billion the U.S. has provided to implement reconstruction programs in Afghanistan,” and that SIGAR’s “core value of excellence, independence, and integrity guide its audits, investigations, and inspections.”

We’re sorry, but we don’t see an abundance of “independent and objective oversight” nor “integrity” in that blame-shifting assessment. Heck, it’s as if Joe Biden’s handlers had written it. As we wrote back in August of last year:

There’s a good and noble way to leave a theater of operations, and there’s a bad way. And beyond that, there’s a shamefully awful way. The latter of these is what the Biden administration has orchestrated. “Biden did the necessary thing in the ugliest possible way,” as Tucker Carlson put it. “After 20 years and trillions of dollars, our leaders couldn’t manage to pull off an orderly retreat.”

Does anyone else wonder whether a U.S. military under the direction of Donald Trump would’ve beat feet so disgracefully? It’s a rhetorical question.

How soon these SIGAR bureaucrats forget. Both Trump and Biden agreed on one thing, at least: that the American people had grown tired of our nation’s 20-year involvement in Afghanistan, and that it no longer serves our strategic interests. Still, as Donald Trump and his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, worked their plan for a withdrawal with honor, they set the terms with the murderous Taliban. We had lost 2,448 warriors in Afghanistan since combat operations began there on October 7, 2001, with Operation Enduring Freedom, but the Trump agreement had kept us from incurring even a single combat death at the hands of the Taliban for 18 months.

And then Joe Biden took over, and 13 more brave American warriors — 10 Marines, two Army soldiers, and one Navy Corpsman — paid the ultimate price as honorable withdrawal became surrender and retreat.

As former Director of National Intelligence Rick Grenell observed: “The Taliban onslaught started coming once Joe Biden got into the White House. The Taliban knew they couldn’t make the move when Trump was in office.”

And yet, the disaster that ensued was somehow Donald Trump’s fault. Shame on these people.

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