Friday 3 September 2021

Joe Biden Wants You to Forget the Afghanistan Debacle

 On the menu today: While Afghanistan disappears from American news coverage, the Taliban threatens the relatives of Afghans who immigrated to America, Senate Republicans demand answers to basic questions about who is still stranded in Afghanistan and what’s being done to get them out, and a Biden administration official reveals why no one will get fired for this debacle.

Mr. President, Americans Are Still Stranded in Afghanistan

This morning, Mike Allen of Axios reports, “President Biden is eager for a fight over abortion — an issue he sees as politically advantageous after the conservative Supreme Court left in place the near-ban in Texas.”

Of course Biden wants a fight over abortion. It’s extremely familiar territory for him and for the rest of the country. And it would distract attention from the fact that the president broke his promise, made on national television, that if there were still Americans in Afghanistan after August 31, we would “stay to get them all out.” A hundred to 200 American citizens, “thousands” of green-card holders, and a majority of the 250,000 Afghans eligible for Special Immigrant Visas are still stranded in Afghanistan. Biden has betrayed them in a colossal dereliction of his duty, and in the process failed and humiliated our nation. So of course he desperately wants to change the subject.

As of 7 a.m. this morning, just two of the 62 news items featured on Memeorandum are about Afghanistan. The front page of the Washington Post website featured a good, detailed story on anti-Taliban resistance fighters in Panjshir, including “a significant number of former Afghan army soldiers, special forces troops and commandos,” who it says represent “the most serious challenge the Taliban has faced.” (Odd: I remember President Biden declaring, “the Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight.”) Beyond that, Afghanistan is no longer a central part of the news cycle.

It’s not that news articles about Afghanistan have completely disappeared. They’re just not in the print editions of major newspapers, not at the top of major news websites, and not the lead stories on cable-news and news-radio shows. The typical news consumer must now look for coverage of what’s happening in Afghanistan, instead of finding it front and center.

Our government abandoned Americans behind enemy lines, and apparently, it’s just not that big a deal to a lot of people.

Today, President Biden is scheduled to speak publicly about the latest jobs report, tour a neighborhood in LaPlace, La., and then deliver remarks on his administration’s response to Hurricane Ida. He will spend this coming weekend in Wilmington, Del.

But whether the president wants to talk about it or not, those Americans are still in Afghanistan, still scared, still wondering if the Taliban are going to pound on their doors in the middle of the night. I’m still getting updates from my reader about Afghans who helped Americans, some of whom are moving from one city to another because they fear their current locations are no longer safe.

We haven’t always been so blasé about leaving our own behind in danger abroad. Four days after the Iranians took Americans hostage at the U.S. embassy in 1979, ABC News created the program America Held Hostage: The Iran Crisis. As anchor Ted Koppel recalled, “They took out an ad the next morning in the New York Times or the Washington Post saying, ‘ABC News will stay on the air with “America Held Hostage” until the hostages are released.’ Which, as it turned out, was 444 days after they were captured. By which time, that interim program that ABC News put on at 11:30 at night, it evolved into ‘ABC News Nightline.’ A permanent program.” There was an enormous national hunger for news on what was happening with the hostages. “It was not unusual for us to have 10 million people watching the program,” Koppel said in a 2009 interview.

Arkansas senator Tom Cotton and 25 other Republican senators have written to the president, demanding answers to a slew of questions, such as:

  • How many American citizens does the administration believe to remain in Afghanistan?
  • Of the American citizens still in Afghanistan, how many are currently in contact with the State Department?
  • Of the green-card holders still in Afghanistan, how many are currently in contact with the State Department?
  • Are the State Department and USCIS still processing pending SIV applications? What steps are being taken to ensure that pending applicants are safe from Taliban reprisals as their applications are adjudicated?
  • Of the more than 57,000 Afghans who are not American citizens, green-card holders, or SIV applicants or their families, how many had no pending immigration application or status with the United States prior to being airlifted?

The administration and much of the country are apparently ready to move on without knowing the answers to any of these questions.

Once you look for news coverage of Afghanistan, you realize how much the story isn’t over, and how many details of what went wrong are still unknown.

An American woman in Idaho described being beaten by the Taliban as she tried to get through the gates at Kabul airport.

Wahida Ivey is a U.S Citizen who was born in Afghanistan and left in 1981 when Russia invaded the country. With help from Senator Rischs’ office, she returned after visiting her family for a week. She knew that American’s would soon evacuate the country, so she wanted to see her cousins and sister before.

“I kind of knew what was about to happen, but I also knew that if I didn’t go see my sister, I probably would’ve never got to see her again,” she said.

Ivey said what she saw were chaos and disfunction. She added that there was no priority to get the U.S citizens evacuated first. She made five attempts to get on a plane back to America, what she saw throughout the process was disturbing.

“Pushing shoving, Taliban are there at the gate, they are hitting people with the wires, and I have bruises I took a couple of hits, they don’t see people they see them as this rush of animals standing at the doors, and these people are just desperate to make it through that gate,” she said.

… “We must hold on to the promise we made, to the people that worked for us, to the people that held our hands when we needed our hands to be held, they deserve much better than that and we should not turn our back to them, it’s not okay,” she said. “These are also human beings, they have family, they have children, it is their home but it’s not a home safe for them to live in.”

The Taliban are threatening the families of American citizens who are living in the U.S.:

An Afghan refugee who’s been living in Houston for the past two years says the Taliban sent a letter to her family, who is hiding in Afghanistan, stating that they need to come forward and demanded her return.

She is now desperately trying to get them out and somewhere safe.

. . . Taliban soldiers dropped a letter off at her family’s home in Afghanistan. She said the letter stated that her family must go to the office of the Taliban. She said the letter also stated that family members who had fled to the US must return.

“We will catch them, too, you and your members that are in the United States,” she said as she translated the letter.

The U.S. left its employees behind, the Wall Street Journal reports:

Lawmakers and media organizations are calling on the Biden administration to help get more than 100 government-funded media employees out of Afghanistan, where they risk retribution from the Taliban for their affiliation with the U.S. government.

Combined with their family members, the number of workers for Voice of America and the Afghan branch of Radio Free Liberty/Radio Europe left behind totals more than 500, according to lawmakers who have asked President Biden to ensure that they get out of the country safely. The media staffers, who aren’t U.S. citizens, are contractors, unlike their colleagues in the U.S., who work directly for the U.S. government.

From Sky News:

While the Taliban may not have access to everything the Afghan Air Force once had, it’s clear that some aircraft have been repurposed by the group.

And experts are worried that even one helicopter could dramatically increase the Taliban’s capacity to inflict violence on communities they have targeted in the past.

“I think what alarms a lot of Afghans now is the potential that you have a Black Hawk helicopter being brought to bear on a village, essentially, say, of Hazaras, a community that they targeted in the 1990s in acts of violence that Hazaras regard as genocide,” said Professor Robert Crews of Stanford University. “Their capacity to rule Afghanistan more completely, in a more brutal way, is a major concern.”

Biden is bleeding political support; this morning’s ABC News poll finds his approval rating dropping from 50 percent to 44 percent, with 42 percent “now ‘strongly disapproving’ of his job performance.” Forty-four percent of the poll’s respondents think the withdrawal left the United States less safe from terrorism, compared to only 8 percent who say it made the country safer. As ABC News notes, “in polling data since the Harry Truman administration, only two presidents have had a lower approval rating at this point in their terms: Donald Trump, at 37% in August 2017, and Gerald Ford, also 37 percent, in March 1975.”

Biden wants to change the subject. And apparently, a lot of Americans are just fine with that.

ADDENDUM: If you’re wondering why the only person who has gotten fired in this mess is a lieutenant colonel who publicly criticized his own commandersReuters reports, “One Biden administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said any dismissal would be seen as a tacit admission that the president had erred in removing troops unconditionally from the South Asian nation.”

The administration’s top priority is not fixing the problem; it’s refusing to admit that there is a problem.

No comments:

Post a Comment