The need for strong leadership is never more acutely felt than when it is missing. Here we stand, 20 years after 9/11, possibly in greater peril than we were on that terrible day. We have been placed in this position by feeble leadership that is crashing down before our eyes in its own plume of sad debris. Twenty years of American history bookended by shocking calamities.
The Biden administration has exposed itself as incapable of making basic prudential decisions, and then compounding it with outrageous statements by the president, Pentagon brass, and the State Department that have many Americans asking, “What were you thinking?” What were you thinking when you decided to extract military personnel from Afghanistan without moving American civilians and Afghan employees out of harm’s way first?
Pentagon generals sputtered that their forces could abandon ship ahead of everyone else because they believed that the Afghan Security Forces they trained and equipped would protect the Americans and Afghani cooperators left behind. This will go down as one of the most spectacular intelligence failures in U.S. history, comparable to the decision to invade Iraq based on faulty WMD intelligence.
Who made this decision? Even if the military leaders had convinced themselves that placing hope in an Afghani force was the best strategy, it still doesn’t explain why they apparently violated the first rule of operational planning: always consider and prepare for the worst-case scenario. This whole debacle reeks of political drivers over tactical prudence.
As the Pentagon brass expressed naive surprise at the resulting chaos, President BidenJoe BidenBiden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day Business lobby calls for administration to 'pump the brakes' on vaccine mandate Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Afghanistan reckoning shows no signs of stopping MORE went on TV with a friendly interviewer and undercut the military narrative by saying that “chaos” stemming from the withdrawal was expected and “priced into” the decision-making process. If Biden thought this admission would somehow comfort a reeling American populace, he swung and missed.
There is chaos — it is among America’s weak political and military leaders. We’ve been subjected daily to conflicting messages between the president and the Pentagon about the safety of 15,000 Americans who remain in grave danger behind enemy lines. Just yesterday, Biden’s press secretary claimed that it is “irresponsible” to refer to Americans in Afghanistan as “stranded” since the U.S. is committed to evacuating anyone who wants to leave. All they have to do is make it through Taliban checkpoints and get to the Kabul airport. This is the type of logic you get from “leaders” who are in over their heads.
The State Department appears similarly irrational. State claims to have issued “strongly worded statements” to the Taliban urging them “in no uncertain terms” to … what, not behead people? Not set homes on fire or publicly stone women? No, according to our State Department it’s more important that the Taliban create an “inclusive” government. Yes, and while you’re at it, let’s insist that the Taliban allow people the use of preferred pronouns and restrooms of choice.
Can the State Department seem any more out of touch with reality? State is letting us know, much to our dismay, that after 20 years in Afghanistan they apparently remain clueless about whom they are dealing with. The Taliban are uncivilized, violent, religious fanatics who brutalize women. Start from that reality. Woke won’t work.
The Biden administration has handed the Taliban dangerous leverage and they are taking advantage of it, now feeling confident enough to threaten “consequences” if the U.S. does not completely withdraw from Afghanistan by Aug. 31. The most readily available and obvious “consequence” is the tenuous safety of Americans who can’t get out. There is a growing unease that this calamity is going to get worse.
A hallmark of weak leadership is excuse-making. The administration has characterized Afghanistan as an inherited problem, as if the president and the people who make up his administration had newly entered government. In fact, many key decision makers are familiar faces who have been in and out of the government’s revolving door over the past 20 years, depending on which party was in charge. They share in the perpetuation of our longest conflict. They inherited their own mess.
The Biden administration is being pilloried, even by some traditional allies, for its breathtaking miscalculations — and deservedly so. Biden has avoidably placed thousands of American lives in immediate danger, emboldened evil oppressors, and likely returned Afghanistan to the terror safe haven we set out to eliminate twenty years ago. Weakness always results in less security.
Over the past year-plus, Americans have endured catastrophic events that have made many of us feel less safe. These include COVID-19 and the unsettling, partisan management of it. Urban riots that were allowed to rage and destroy. The demonization and defunding of police, bail elimination, and decriminalization of certain crimes — all of which contribute to increasing violent crimes. The falsely compassionate tolerance of homeless encampments. The uncontrolled, unvetted opening of the southern border.
True leadership always strives to assure safety for the citizenry. An absence of this assurance is the first sign that a nation lacks adequate leadership. Without strong leaders, poor decisions are made. The Biden administration’s poor decisions in Afghanistan have crystalized, in a starkly emblematic way, how weak leaders have made us much less safe on many fronts for some time now.
Can the Biden administration survive as an effective governing entity? It seems doubtful. Their colossal misread of intelligence in Afghanistan calls into question their ability to claim accurate intelligence interpretations concerning linchpins of their political agenda such as climate change, pandemic policies and election reform. Why should we believe them on any topic?
Twenty years removed from 9/11, America in many ways is less safe. This is a failure of leadership that is threatening our national security. We need and deserve much better.
Kevin R. Brock, former assistant director of intelligence for the FBI, was an FBI special agent for 24 years and principal deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). He independently consults with private companies and public-safety agencies on strategic mission technologies.