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July 5, 2023

Biden State Department Blame-Shifts on Afghanistan

In passing the buck two years after the fact, Tony Blinken takes a page from his boss’s book.

Nearly two years after our nation’s disastrous retreat and surrender in Afghanistan, Joe Biden’s State Department has stepped forward to say … don’t blame us.

That’s the message we’re getting from State’s “After Action Review on Afghanistan,” a 24-page piece of derrière drapery extolling the virtues of its own people while spread-loading the blame with buck-passing prose about what a tough spot those courageous career diplomats were in. Take this passage, for example, from the executive summary:

The stress, demands, and risks of the situation are hard to exaggerate and placed tremendous burdens on the Department’s personnel and its crisis response structures. Overall, the Department’s personnel responded with great agility, determination, and dedication, while taking on roles and responsibilities both domestically and overseas that few had ever anticipated.

The poor babies.

And what perfectly orchestrated timing for such a disgraceful document, for such a profound insult to the Americans Joe Biden left behind, and to the families of the 13 warriors who died in a massacre we saw coming: the Friday afternoon just before the Independence Day holiday. As The Federalist’s Jordan Boyd noted upon its release: “The State Department’s unclassified review, which is less than two dozen pages long due to redactions, sheepishly confirms that President Joe Biden’s ultimate execution of the withdrawal ‘posed significant challenges for the Department.’ The confession, publicly released more than a year after completion, comes mere hours before the July 4 holiday weekend begins.”

Remarkably, though, Secretary of State Tony Blinken doesn’t merely blame the Trump administration, which his boss seems to do reflexively. Instead, he blames both the Trump administration and the Biden administration for having sought to pull our troops out of Afghanistan. Of course, Blinken fails to mention that Trump had hammered out an orderly plan for withdrawal, while Biden insisted on a date certain, which he compounded with a disastrous show of military weakness.

The decisions of both President Trump and President Biden to end the U.S. military mission posed significant challenges for the Department as it sought to maintain a robust diplomatic and assistance presence in Kabul and provide continued support to the Afghan government and people. As conditions on the ground deteriorated and the prospects for successful peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban grew dimmer, leadership in the Department and at Embassy Kabul faced the dilemma that significantly reducing the remaining U.S. presence in Afghanistan and accelerating the departure of at-risk Afghans risked undermining confidence in the Afghan government and triggering the very collapse the United States hoped to avoid.

So you see, it was everyone’s fault except the State Department’s.

We wonder: What might a real leader, a real secretary of state say about this day-late, dollar-short bit of responsibility shirking? Oh, maybe something like this:

The Biden Admin’s Afghanistan report is a cover-up. They try to pass the blame but don’t explain why they abandoned our conditions-based approach. Or why they left Bagram Air Base before evacuating civilians. Or why they arbitrarily selected 9/11 as a final deadline. A complete failure of leadership. The catastrophic handling of Afghanistan encouraged Putin to invade Ukraine. Weakness is provocative, and we’ll be paying for these mistakes for years.

Toward the end of the State report, its authors take a final swipe at the previous administration: “In examining these efforts spanning two administrations, the [After Action Report] team was struck by the differences in style and decision making, most notably the relative lack of an interagency process in the Trump administration and the intense interagency process that characterized the initial period of the Biden Administration.”

Of course, Blinken is merely a product of his environment. And he’s no doubt been paying attention to his decrepit boss’s broken-record blame-shifting toward former President Donald Trump, whether the issue is inflation, or the economy, or illegal immigration, or even a Chinese spy balloon. As our Mark Alexander noted back in 2021, just days after the utterly avoidable August 26 Kabul Airport massacre: “With Trump gone, the Taliban summarily discarded [his drawdown] conditions and ousted the [Afghan] government. And why wouldn’t they? Obviously, they had no fear of Biden enforcing those terms. Former Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell concurs: ‘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.’”

Despite Team Biden’s worst efforts to the contrary, the blame for what happened in Afghanistan can’t be so easily shifted, nor so easily covered up.

Updated with additional analysis of Joe Biden’s catastrophic abandonment of Afghanistan.

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