There are no discernible principles behind President Joe Biden’s policy decisions except to undo everything that former President Donald Trump accomplished and to blame Trump for whatever may go badly.
Last week featured two perfect examples: Biden’s new offer of a nuclear weapons deal to Iran and a White House report that blames Trump for the debacle Biden created in withdrawing too suddenly from Afghanistan.
The Iran offer is the more important of the two, but we know only the barest details of it. The White House has reportedly held discussions with Israel, Germany, France, and the U.K. with the intent of reviving the talks with Iran. (The three European nations were signatories to Obama’s 2015 deal.) The offer — which has been or is about to be made — would relieve Iran of sanctions to a significant extent for its promise to limit uranium enrichment to 60 percent.
The only good thing about Biden’s offer is that the ayatollahs probably won’t accept it because they are confident that they can produce nuclear weapons with or without a deal with Biden.
This column has rehearsed the reasons that the 2015 deal negotiated by Obama (and his secretary of state, John Kerry) was a significant threat to our national security. Very briefly: Iran is the world’s principal terror-sponsoring nation and, of course, cannot be trusted; there was no means of ensuring that the West knew what Iran was doing because of a weak inspection regime; Iran was violating the agreement from the start; and the only outcome possible was a nuclear-armed Iran.
A new deal won’t be better and will probably be worse.
Trump wisely revoked the deal in 2018, and Biden has tried to renew it since he was inaugurated. In his obsession to undo everything Trump did, Biden has found the renewal of the Iran deal just about the only thing that has so far escaped him.
Biden’s proposed offer is opposed by the Israelis and the Saudis but supported by the Germans and the French. The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said that the time has come for a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear issue.
As if there could be one. This column has always maintained that Iran will never give up its nuclear weapons program peacefully.
The absurdity of Biden’s proposal is found in the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report that there is evidence that Iran has already enriched uranium far higher than the 60 percent in Biden’s offer. The IAEA reported evidence showing it has enriched to 84 percent, just six points shy of nuclear weapons grade. That means Iran can turn up its enrichment whenever it pleases and produce one or more nuclear weapons in weeks. In truth, it may have already done so.
There are no facts that could possibly justify Biden offering — far less signing — a new nuclear weapons deal with Iran. And then there is the new report on Afghanistan.
Last week’s 12-page White House report on Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan blames Trump for the debacle Biden created and tries to paper over Biden’s guilt.
The report isn’t just gaslighting; it’s disinformation. There are too many lies in the report to catalog here. Let’s just hit a few of the big ones.
The report’s second paragraph says, “President Biden’s choices for how to execute a withdrawal from Afghanistan were severely constrained by conditions created by his predecessor.” Well, no.
It is true that Trump signed a foolish deal with the Taliban on Feb. 29, 2020. It required us to reduce our troop presence in Afghanistan by May 2020 and withdraw completely within 14 months, July 2021. It imposed no real obligations on the Taliban. The Taliban were supposed to state publicly that terrorists weren’t welcome in Afghanistan (the Taliban, of course, are themselves a terrorist gang) and prevent any group that would threaten the United States from having a safe haven there.
The stupidity of that agreement is in its complete failure to establish any means of compelling the Taliban to comply with it.
Biden wasn’t obligated to follow that agreement because the Taliban violated it from the outset. What he could have, and should have, done was to establish the means to enforce the “no safe haven” deal.
The report says that, “As a result, when President Biden took office on January 20, 2021, the Taliban was in the strongest military position that they had been in since 2001, controlling or contesting nearly half of the country. At the same time, the United States had only 2,500 troops on the ground — the lowest number of troops in Afghanistan since 2001 — and President Biden was facing President Trump’s near-term deadline to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan by May 2021 or the Taliban would resume attacks on U.S. and allied troops.”
The report’s principal argument is that Biden’s only choices were to greatly increase troop strength or get out altogether. And that is the biggest lie.
Yes, the Taliban were stronger than ever, but Biden wasn’t concerned by the Trump deadline of May 2021. Biden didn’t withdraw all our forces until August 2021 when he created — all by his lonesome — a debacle that cost the lives of 13 U.S. troops and left behind several hundred U.S. citizens and about $7 billion in weapons and other equipment.
The report goes on to say that Biden consulted our allies extensively before the actual withdrawal. That vague language conceals the fact that before Biden’s announcement in April 2021 that he’d withdraw all our forces before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, he did not consult our allies, even those with troops on the ground. Moreover, there were no conditions in Afghanistan compelling that retreat. His deadline was entirely arbitrary.
On July 8, 2021, Biden proclaimed that we had accomplished what we came to Afghanistan to do, including “… degrad[ing] the terrorist threat to keep Afghanistan from becoming a base from which attacks could be continued against the United States.” More on that in a moment.
The White House report says, “President Biden took the advice of his military commanders on the tactical decisions regarding the operational retrograde of the US forces in Afghanistan, including the dates they closed facilities, and he regularly asked them if there was anything else they needed.”
But he didn’t. Gen. Frank McKenzie, then commander of U.S. Central Command, which had responsibility for Afghanistan, told Biden that he should keep at least 2,500 troops (and presumably sufficient intelligence gatherers) in Afghanistan. He has also said that the precipitate withdrawal of all U.S. troops led to the fall of Kabul.
Biden’s plan failed over a period of several days. His generals abandoned Bagram Airfield without even telling the Afghan government. Bagram was closer to Kabul than Hamid Karzai International Airport and was a far more secure base from which to evacuate our civilians, troops, and equipment.
The Biden plan — which never changed despite the evidence that it was failing — evacuated U.S. troops first and then tried to evacuate civilians including U.S. citizens. This is precisely the wrong order for conducting a withdrawal. The White House report says that every U.S. civilian in Afghanistan was contacted and some chose to stay. As many as 200 didn’t want to stay but were still left behind.
After the withdrawal, Biden said on Aug. 31, 2021, “We will maintain the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and other countries. We just don’t need to fight a ground war to do it. We have what’s called over-the-horizon capabilities, which means we can strike terrorists and targets without American boots on the ground — or very few, if needed.”
So exactly how has that worked out?
Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently admitted that — after 19 months — some Americans are still held captive by the Taliban. And there’s worse.
A March 24 Wall Street Journal report quoted Gen. Erik Kurilla, present commander of U.S. Central Command, as saying that the terrorist group Islamic State-Khorasan (ISIS-K) could attack U.S. or Western interests outside Afghanistan in under six months with little or no warning.
Biden’s “over the horizon” strategy did result in the killing of Ayman al-Zawahiri, one of the old commanders of al-Qaida. But there is no evidence that there were other strikes aimed at preventing groups such as ISIS-K from operating from safe havens in Afghanistan.
For all the lies in the White House report, it’s perfectly clear that Biden’s plan failed and that he is responsible for its results.
And what of his military advisers, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley? None of them apparently went to Biden to tell him the plan wasn’t working. None of them threatened to resign if the plan wasn’t changed to make it workable. Shame on all of them.
We could have had a real “over-the-horizon” strategy…