Wicker Calls on Biden to Accept Responsibility for Afghanistan Withdrawal
Abandoning Partners and Blaming Others Weakens U.S. Stature
April 17, 2023
Last week, President Biden released classified and unclassified reports outlining his administration’s decisions before, during, and after the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal of 2021. Instead of taking responsibility for the damage he did to America’s international reputation in this historic blunder, the president tries to lay the blame at the feet of former President Trump.
President Attempts to Hide the Truth
The tragedies of the Afghanistan withdrawal were preventable. President Biden disregarded the on-the-ground insights of his military leaders and set an arbitrary departure deadline that gave him too little time to plan a proper exit.
The Commander-in-Chief has the right to ignore advisers, but that right requires him to accept blame for his own decisions. By shifting the blame to the previous administration, President Biden hides behind a false narrative and papers over the damage his choices caused.
The Withdrawal Harmed U.S. Stature and Security
The withdrawal burned a series of shameful pictures into the American and international psyche: a suicide bomber killing 13 American soldiers and over 150 Afghan civilians in front of the Kabul airport; desperate parents passing an infant over a barbed wire fence to U.S soldiers; Afghans clinging to the outside of a departing plane, yearning to escape the Taliban’s coming tyranny.
I said at the time and still believe President Biden’s decision to desert our Afghan partners – who helped us for twenty years in the fight against Al-Qaeda terrorists – was one of the most shameful abandonments of our friends in the nation’s history. His actions exacted a terrible cost in human life and dealt a massive blow to our trustworthiness.
Our enemies certainly noticed. Chinese media quickly claimed the United States would not come to Taiwan’s aid in the event of a Chinese invasion. Russian President Vladimir Putin decided the American star was fading, and he felt confident to attack Ukraine. Putin was wrong about America, but it was Congress, not President Biden, who took the lead in standing up to his aggression by aiding our friends.
The American objective in Afghanistan was to uproot terror networks so they could not attack our homeland again. We were successful: There has not been another 9/11. However, President Biden’s decision to leave so hastily created a situation in which the Taliban soon returned to power. Their takeover has downgraded Afghan quality of life, especially for women and girls, created space in which terrorists could rebuild their operations, and given China and Russia an opening in the region.
Honest Reports Would Begin Rebuilding Trust
A principled administration would hold many people accountable for what went wrong in Afghanistan. But Biden’s leadership team has deflected responsibility, publishing partisan reports that fail to get to the heart of the issue. Congress must not settle for such a misleading story.
Since the beginning of the debacle, I have pressed the administration for the truth. I will keep doing so. They are trying to bury the contents of the reports by giving Congress too-little time to review the confidential versions, which contain significant new information. I am pushing the administration to grant Congress all the time we need to conduct the necessary oversight.
Meanwhile, I am working to rebuild American credibility on the global stage. Our allies have been encouraged by our solidarity with Ukraine, but we will need to project more strength to reassure the world we can and will defend our interests. That will require growth in the military budget. As Russia and China seek to change the balance of power, fully supporting our military enables us to be a stabilizing presence in an increasingly unstable world.