The Memo: Defensive Biden tries to put Afghanistan behind him

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A defense President BidenJoe Biden Progressive Democratic lawmakers urge Biden to replace Powell as Fed Chairman Pentagon posts photo of last soldier to leave Afghanistan overnight Defense and National Security – America’s longest war ends MORE sought to emerge from the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan on Tuesday with a White House speech marking the end of the 20 Years War.

Biden insisted the evacuation operation had been a “success” and strongly rebuffed critics who argued for a continued but modest US military presence.

The president also sought to reframe the underlying argument. He claimed that the United States had no “vital interests” in Afghanistan that had not been realized given that Osama bin Laden was killed in neighboring Pakistan ten years ago and that Al- Qaeda had long been weakened.

Still, some of Biden’s claims have strained credulity, particularly his implication that the US pullout went largely as planned.

Biden had previously promised that there would be no “Saigon moment” in Kabul. There was.

He said in a recent interview with George StephanopoulosGeorge Robert Stephanopoulos Biden must tell Beijing: “War means instant Taiwan independence” EU chief says “there is no recognition” of the Taliban Five takeaways from the chaos week of Biden in Afghanistan MORE from ABC News that he had pledged to get out all Americans who wanted to leave. He did not do it.

His administration had promised that the United States would maintain its diplomatic engagement with Afghanistan even after the troop withdrawal. But the American embassy has been closed. Acting Ambassador Ross Wilson was on the last plane.

It is impossible to reconcile these facts with the positive image Biden sought to paint – although the total number of evacuees from Afghanistan, at around 120,000, is unquestionably impressive.

Biden’s speech, delivered in the ornate State Dining Room, was alternately aggressive and somber. Sometimes his hands cut the air in front of him for emphasis. He did not answer questions from four long rows of reporters seated to his left.

Biden paid tribute to the 13 members of the United States military who were killed in the recent suicide bombing attack outside Kabul airport and other American troops – more than 2,400 of them – who lost their way. life during the war.

But he acknowledged that there were a relatively small number of Americans who wanted to leave the country and couldn’t. Biden has claimed that “there is no deadline” to get these people out and that his administration remains “committed” to doing so – but what that looks like in practice is one to guess.

There are also a large number of Afghans who have helped the American occupation in one way or another and who have been left behind. Some groups have put the number at 60,000.

They now face an ominous fate as the Taliban tighten their grip on power and the gaze of the Western world in all likelihood begins to shift elsewhere. It would be highly unusual for the Taliban to show mercy to those they see as collaborators.

Refugees who have made it to the United States appear to face better odds – although they will have to endure nativist sentiments stirred up by demagogic figures in the conservative media in their new homeland.

Politically, Biden clearly paid the price for the ignominy of the US withdrawal, which was filled with searing images of desperate Afghans hanging from a US military plane and the carnage inflicted by the bombing of Kabul airport.

a ABC News-Ipsos Poll published in recent days found that only 38% of Americans approved of Biden’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, while 59% disapproved. As the Wall Street Journal noted on Tuesday, an equivalent July survey found 55% approved of Biden’s approach.

Biden is betting that the horror of the American people on the stages of the past few weeks will fade – especially since they seem to agree with him on the more fundamental question of American involvement in Afghanistan.

Polls have shown pluralities in American public opinion against the war in Afghanistan for years. Old President TrumpDonald Trump Progressive Democratic lawmakers urge Biden to replace Powell as Fed chairman Close examination of COVID origins marks victory for US intelligence agencies Jan. 6 panel is seeking records of those involved in the rally ” Stop the Steal »MORE also opposed the war – and struck a deal with the Taliban for a complete withdrawal from the United States in February 2020. A recent Associated Press-NORC poll found that 62% of Americans thought the war was not worth it worth fighting for.

Biden’s speech on Tuesday will be refracted through the partisan prism, like everything does nowadays. A spokesperson for the Republican National Committee (RNC) called it “shameful” in an email to reporters shortly after its end. Calls for Biden’s resignation or impeachment multiply from the GOP – including, on Tuesday, the RNC chairwoman Ronna mcdanielRonna Romney McDanielH.R. 4: For Democrats, it’s all about power Ex-Rep. Paul Mitchell, who left GOP on Trump, dies GOP President: Trump “still leads the party” MORE.

There is no chance of resignation and, for now, no impeachment either. The latter option could become more plausible if Republicans deprived Democrats of their slim House majority in next year’s midterm election.

The later and more effective segments of Biden’s speech showed that the United States faces a new set of challenges. Threats, he suggested, are more likely to come in a nebulous form from an economic rival such as China than in the form of deadly plots hatched in Tora Bora.

It was time, he argued, to “turn the page” on a world view of foreign policy that formed in the traumatic crucible of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. A new approach could not involve to get bogged down for another decade in Afghanistan, he said.

This argument may well prove to be widely popular. But that won’t necessarily erase the dismay many Americans have felt as they watch the events of the past few weeks.

At the White House on Tuesday, Biden said in a quiet room but for the slamming of cameras that there was a “new world” the United States must embrace.

The horrors of the old world are still fresh in the minds of many Americans.


The Memo is a column published by Niall Stanage.


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