Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
April 6, 2023
The debacle of Biden’s withdrawal from Kabul was on record and watched by millions of people real-time all around the world. People have made up his/her minds and it makes no difference after John Kirby said that “From all this talk of chaos, I just didn’t see it.”
This back and forth between a Democratic Administration and a GOP controlled House does expose a major concern on credibility of US foreign policy making and execution. John Kirby acknowledged that “Whatever plans that might have been done by the previous administration we didn’t see.” If so, Biden administration should carry out detailed planning for the withdrawal before any actions. The fact is that the withdrawal was ordered by Biden so Biden should bear the responsibility.
It is also clear that bipartisan politics serves an important oversight function in DC. If the House were still under a Democratic Majority now, the White House report to the Congress would be different. Of course, such a report would be harsher to the Trump Administration than the current one.
The State Department is subpoenaed by the House to produce a separate report and the Department of Defense should send its report to Congress. The public or US voters, however, will never know the details because all specifics of these reports are classified.
Foreign governments and foreigners of course will see less details than the US. So, they have to make the worst-case assumptions that: US Foreign policy making is not transparent and there is no continuity between administrations. So much for the US global leadership and what will be the US Foreign Policy Objective after the next US general election will be in November 2024, is anybody’s guess.
Biden officials send classified Afghanistan docs to Congress
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby vigorously defended President Biden’s order to evacuate Afghanistan in 2021, while repeatedly attempting to shift blame to the Trump administration.
In a fiery press briefing, Kirby argued Biden had his hands tied after inheriting a rushed May 2021 withdrawal date and a downsizing of troops in Afghanistan from the Trump administration.
“He came in with a certain set of circumstances in which he had no ability to change,” Kirby said. “Whatever plans that might have been done by the previous administration we didn’t see and it was not apparent there was a lot of planning done.”
Kirby was peppered with questions from White House reporters as he denied Biden administration responsibility for poor planning and messy policymaking in the withdrawal.
The White House spokesperson said Biden successfully bought more time by pushing the withdrawal back to August 2021, also giving the president credit for quickly setting up a secure airport and evacuating more than 124,000 people out of the country.
“Nobody’s saying that everything was perfect, but there was a lot that went right,” Kirby said. “From all this talk of chaos, I just didn’t see it.”
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) slammed Kirby’s comments as “disgraceful and insulting.”
“President Biden made the decision to withdraw and even picked the exact date; he is responsible for the massive failures in planning and execution,” McCaul said in a statement after the briefing.
The briefing followed the release of a 12-page summary of the withdrawal from Afghanistan that largely pins the blame on the Trump administration and other external factors — and does not acknowledge any failure on part of the Biden administration.
The White House also sent classified after-action reports for review to Congress.
House Republicans are investigating the chaotic withdrawal, including a bombing at the airport in the capitol of Kabul that killed 13 U.S. service members.
The U.S. retreat from Afghanistan paved the way for a Taliban takeover of the country within days after roughly 20 years of American occupation.
At the briefing, Kirby argued Biden did the best he could from the Trump-inherited plan and bad intelligence, which failed to account for how fast the Taliban would capture the country.
He also said it was impossible to know that tens of thousands of Afghan fighters would not put up any resistance to the Taliban.
Kirby did say there were lessons learned about being more aggressive in information sharing, preparing for earlier evacuations in tense security situations and creating teams to plan for worst-case scenarios, which he said were applied to conflicts in Ukraine and Ethiopia.