American troops had to recapture and establish control over Kabul airport after chaotic scenes unfolded on the tarmac with hundreds of Afghans clinging to the US military aircraft in a desperate bid to get out of the country, resulting in a suspension of flights. There were reports of gun fire and deaths at the airport and video footage appeared to show stowaways falling from one US aircraft as it took off and gained height.
The shocking scenes amplified growing criticism of the 78 year old President and his handling — or non-handling — of the unfolding crisis. His aides blamed the Afghan government and its abdication of responsibility for the situation but the Biden administration took fire for poor logistical planning that left thousands of Americans and Afghan allies in harm’s way.
“At the end of the day, despite the fact that we spent 20 years and tens of billions of dollars to get the best equipment, the best training and the best capacity to the national Afghan security forces, we could not give them the will,” National Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN while defending the White House.
But the President’s own assurance last month that there won’t be kind scenes witness during the US humiliation in Vietnam left him with no place to hide — not even Camp David, the presidential getaway where he was taking a summer break. He had to rush back to the White House and was scheduled to address the nation at 1.15 am IST.
The scenes at Kabul airport were worse than recorded history in Saigon, showing misjudgment, intelligence failure, and collapse of American command and control.
Former President Donald Trump was among those who slammed Biden, even as Democrats who would be expected to defend the administration retreated into embarrassed silence.
“First Joe Biden surrendered to Covid and it has come roaring back. Then he surrendered to the Taliban, who has quickly overtaken Afghanistan and destroyed confidence in American power and influence. The outcome in Afghanistan, including the withdrawal, would have been totally different if the Trump Administration had been in charge. Who or what will Joe Biden surrender to next? Someone should ask him, if they can find him,” Trump taunted in a statement.
Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee tweeted a video clip of the unfolding chaos at Kabul airport with the caption “Joe Biden’s still on “vacation” today. Meanwhile in Kabul”
But Biden supporters lashed back, blaming the Trump and his administration for leaving the incumbent with a poor hand by virtually recognizing Taliban as the incoming dispensation in Afghanistan. Photos emerged showing former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, ostensibly during the Trump administration’s engagement with Taliban, to suggest that it was the previous US dispensation that walked Taliban into power. Baradar was reportedly freed from a Pakistani jail at the prompting of the Trump White House.
Well known US establishment figures castigated both the Biden and Trump administrations for the fiasco. “This Trump-Biden withdrawal is a big mistake. Beijing and Moscow they are laughing. Tehran and Pyongyang have seen that the Administration is credulous when it comes to claims by devoted adversaries of the United States. It makes us look like we’re suckers,” tweeted former Trump White House National Security Advisor John Bolton, widely regarded as a warmongering hawk.
“It seems inevitable that the Taliban will allow Al-Queda, ISIS, and other terrorist groups we haven’t even heard of yet to find sanctuary in Afghanistan. It’s just intolerable that we’ve allowed this to happen,” he added.