Fahrenthold: Biden takes heat for what past presidents wouldn’t do in Afghanistan

Aug 31, 2021, 11:09 AM | Updated: 11:11 am
Biden, Afghanistan...
President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken look on as as a carry team moves a transfer case with the remain of Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Ind., during a casualty return at Dover Air Force Base, Del., Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, for the 13 service members killed in the suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

A lot of people, including within the Biden administration, seem to have been shocked by how fast the Taliban has taken over in Afghanistan.

“It was stunning I think to everybody, including the Pentagon and people in the former Afghan government, that this happened as fast,” Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold told Seattle’s Morning News. “It was a case of where I went on vacation, the world looked one way. When I came back, it was, at least that part of it, radically different.”

As for the reaction from Congress and the White House to the evacuation, he says they were caught “flat footed.”

“[The Biden administration], from what we’ve reported, believed they had weeks, months, even years perhaps before the Taliban got close to Kabul,” Fahrenthold said. “… They spent billions of dollars building up this huge Afghan military and [thought] that it would fight.”

“I don’t think what they or the people in the Afghan government had planned on was the fact that basically nobody would fight,” he continued. “This was not a fight for Kabul or really any of the provincial capitals, it was a walk over. The Afghan forces just disappeared and the Taliban walked in. And so instead of it taking weeks or years, it took days.”

KIRO Radio’s Colleen O’Brien noted that she’s watched the strategy of Republicans as this played out for President Biden. How is that going to shake out in Congress as far as investigations or trying to block him or Kamala Harris from another term?

“It is really interesting because the policy of getting out of Afghanistan obviously was very popular in America,” Fahrenthold replied. “Trump supported it, Trump ran on it. The timeline of Biden pulling out troops was sort of set in motion by a deal that Trump made with the Taliban in February of 2020.”

“So there was support among Republican voters and the last Republican president for getting out,” he added. “The criticism then becomes not that Biden got out, but that he got out the wrong way, that he moved too fast, he pulled troops back too fast, put people in harm’s way when they shouldn’t have been.”

Ross: There was never going to be a good time to pull out of Afghanistan

Fahrenthold thinks there will be a lot of criticism for how the evacuation happened.

“But it’s interesting to see how much the Republican viewpoint has changed,” he noted. “I think even 10 years ago they would have said, ‘we need more people in Afghanistan, not less. We need to fight the terrorists there so we don’t have to fight them here.’ Now they’re saying, ‘OK, it was the right thing to do to get out of Afghanistan, but you did it the wrong way.'”

And the flip-flop isn’t just a Republican thing, as Colleen pointed out, it’s Democrats, too.

“If you think about the last two presidents before Biden — Obama and Trump — both said they would end the war in Afghanistan and neither one did,” Fahrenthold said. “Trump said he would get out, and he made the deal to get out, but didn’t actually have to deal with the difficulties of removing everybody.”

“So I think Biden did the thing that other people wanted to do but couldn’t bring themselves to. But the reason that those two past presidents don’t really want to do this is because it would be messy and horrible,” he added. “And now Biden has, in doing the thing that they wouldn’t, he is now accepting the consequences that they wouldn’t either.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Fahrenthold: Biden takes heat for what past presidents wouldn’t do in Afghanistan