The RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) are apoplectic over what’s going on in Afghanistan. But wait! I don’t mean Sen. Mitt Romney, Illinois Rep Adam Kinzinger, or any other Republican who former president Trump has labeled with this acronym. Oh no, I’m referring to Trump’s former secretary of State Mike Pompeo, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, all the Republicans who voted on January 6 against certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory and for sure, Donald Trump. Neither the former president nor his supporters are real Republicans in my book, much less patriotic Americans.
There’s plenty of blame to go around for the chaos in Afghanistan, of course, including some for President Biden’s decisions. But two of the most shocking criticisms of the president came from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Pompeo. Both are former military officers who should know better. Pompeo graduated first in his class at West Point in 1986; Cotton is a decorated veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan during former president George W. Bush’s administration.
Yet, as the Taliban was closing in on the Afghan capital of Kabul on August 14, the far-right Cotton typified the Republican response to this dire situation, “Joe Biden’s ill-planned retreat has now humiliated America and put at risk thousands of Americans left in Kabul,” Cotton said. He added that Biden “must unleash American air power to destroy every Taliban fighter in the vicinity of Kabul until we can save our fellow Americans.”
The following day, Pompeo advocated “crushing” the Taliban surrounding Kabul with American air power in order to, “inflict cost and pain on them.” “This president [Biden] confronted a challenge in Afghanistan – he has utterly failed to protect the American people from this challenge,” he added.
Both of these ex-military men should well know that air power alone could never destroy all Taliban fighters around Kabul, a sprawling city of over 4 million people. As they were uttering their bombing nonsense, the Taliban had almost taken total control of the country and no doubt possessed some heavy weapons that had been abandoned by the Afghan military. The international airport near the city would be the only way out for the remaining Americans and Afghan allies in the surrounding area and it’s likely there weren’t enough U.S. military personnel there to fully protect it.
Unquestionably, massive bombing would have resulted in horrific civilian casualties. And, it would be like trying to subdue a lion with a baseball bat. No doubt, enraged Taliban fighters would have captured every American they could find. Even if they couldn’t overrun the airport, any U.S. evacuation aircraft would likely have taken intense fire from Taliban rocket propelled grenades, heavy machine guns and artillery. I believe the result would have been an incredibly worse catastrophe, with numerous Americans killed or held hostage and few being able to escape.
Why on earth would Pompeo and Cotton have proposed get tough, reckless bombing campaigns? Could it be their 2024 presidential aspirations?
Pompeo’s Afghan blunders, however, go much deeper. As the U.S. secretary of State in 2018, he and former president Trump succeeded in pressuring the Pakistani government to release a Taliban co-founder, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, to negotiate a deal. The bilateral agreement that was signed in February 2020 freed 5,000 captive Taliban fighters from prison and committed to the withdrawal of U.S. military and allied forces within 14 months (by May 2021). In exchange, they got some promises from an untrustworthy enemy.
It’s been reported that Trump even suggested a meeting with Taliban representatives at Camp David and mused about winning a Nobel Peace Prize. Was this deal designed to bolster Trump’s 2020 reelection prospects? Hmm, could be.
Regardless, The Trump/Pompeo agreement not only reduced the American military presence in Afghanistan, it reinforced the Taliban army by thousands of fighters and severely weakened the Afghan government in Kabul. By the time Biden was inaugurated, Afghanistan’s fate was almost sealed, according to many observers. He could either attempt to renegotiate the Trump agreement while rebuilding U.S. forces or carry out its commitments. Neither was a good option for the United States by then. And yes, chaos was probably inevitable under the circumstances Biden inherited, as there remained thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans to be evacuated from this hostile environment.
Still, why hadn’t the Trump administration begun the process of bringing translators and other at-risk Afghan allies to the United States before the U.S. withdrew troops in 2020? Well, last Friday, Olivia Troye, who was a counterterrorism aide to former Vice President Mike Pence, accused former Trump advisor Stephen Miller of organizing xenophobic officials inside the Trump Administration to deny these refugees special immigration visas. If true, this is beyond shocking.
The ongoing humanitarian effort in Afghanistan will playout over the next few weeks and every American should hope and pray that all of our fellow citizens are evacuated from Kabul, along with thousands of our Afghan allies. Still, I believe the way Republicans are politicizing this tragedy – just like they politicized the coronavirus pandemic – is exacerbating an already horrible situation.
And, we can be certain that Republicans will demand intensive investigations of Biden’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan while attempting to impede and downplay the investigations of the vicious January 6 attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters. They have no shame.
Thank you for another in depth and intelligent and knowledgeable blog on what’s happening in Afghanistan right now Ron. It’s all so sad and depressing and I hope enough sensible folks read the whole truth of all of this.
Thanks Ron. Another good one. Good points that need to be shared and understood by more of us. I just wish our media would be more forceful on the elements of this post.
To the members of the media, all media, dumping on Biden, playing 24/7 armchair quarterback, and to all the critics of this pullout: By a show of hands, how many of you are ready to volunteer to go to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban and prop up a corrupt government? Or, better yet, take with you your wife, yours sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters to continue this struggle now that the Taliban gained so much momentum during the Trump years? Wait! No hands?
Anyone who served in military leadership or even civilian leadership for any decent length of time knows that there are times when a decision must be made and none of the alternatives are all that great. At these times, one moves forward with the least bad alternative. Unfortunately this is what Biden faced just a few months into his term. Also unfortunately, this is lost on most of our country. Most of our country has never been within 1000 miles of these types of critical decisions but, as someone recently said, maybe they slept at a Holiday Inn Express last night so they are now experts.
Our country is deeply sick and I am not talking about the pandemic. So many have fallen under the spell of political gamesters. It is all a game, a power play, to so much of the political class, especially the very skilled but crafty gamesters on the right. In this game, nothing is off limits to politicize and thereby throw red meat to their political base. And they have conned an unbelievable portion of our country into playing their game.
I fear that our country has gone beyond the point of no return. Civility is largely gone for far too many people. We are lost in a vile, never-ending process that was driven to this awful level beginning in 1980 with Ronald Reagan. We are now 4 decades deep into this quagmire. The enemies of democracy are winning. They have successfully divided our country in so many ways. I can’t see a way to unscramble this egg. (Ron, I sure hope you can.) Plus, they are further rigging their game to win for many more years to come. Meanwhile, Democrats are so poor at playing these political games that they are tripping all over themselves at a time, a very short time, a time that is almost over, a time when they have the power to force some course corrections.
On the other hand, I pray that my assessment is not the case.
Keep up the good work Ron.
Ron, it’s nice to hear a straight forward assessment that critiques both sides. It was a no win situation when it started and a no win situation now. All this war did was transfer trillions to government contractors- underworld-mercenary-scumbags that the U.S. relies on but who ultimately accomplish nothing. They are as corrupt as anyone over there and for that reason could never generate loyalty in the government or populace. It was only the promise of big money that propped the whole thing up and when that went away everything crumbled as was expected by the people who knew the reality of the situation. In that environment principles do not exist. In fact, principles are pretty hard to find right here at home. Pretty tragic.