As the United Nation’s secretary general warned Friday that Afghanistan is “spinning out of control,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby rejected comparisons between the current situation to the fall of Saigon in 1975.
“We’re not focused on the history of the Vietnam War,” he told reporters at a news conference.
“For months, I have pressed President Biden for a plan to avoid the very situation that is now happening in Afghanistan. Now, American lives are at risk because President Biden still doesn’t have a plan,” he said.
On Thursday, Biden ordered 3,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan to help evacuate U.S. Embassy staff from Kabul after the Taliban had seized 12 provincial capitals. The Taliban now controls 17 of the nation’s 34 provincial capitals, including Kandahar, the second-largest city, and is rapidly advancing towards the capital Kabul.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at a press conference Friday he was “deeply disturbed by early indications that the Taliban are imposing severe restrictions in the areas under their control, particularly targeting women and journalists.”
“This is the moment to halt the offensive,” Guterres said. “This is the moment to start serious negotiation. This is the moment to avoid a prolonged civil war or the isolation of Afghanistan.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Biden’s “decisions have us hurtling toward an even worse sequel to the humiliating fall of Saigon in 1975” to Vietcong and North Vietnamese communist troops.
In June, as the Taliban was advancing ahead of the withdrawal deadline, Biden dismissed the Saigon comparisons.
“There’s going to be no circumstance where you’ll see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States from Afghanistan,” he said.
During the same month, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also rejected the parallels.
“I do not see that unfolding,” he said.
“I may be wrong, who knows, you can’t predict the future, but I don’t see Saigon 1975 in Afghanistan. The Taliban just aren’t the North Vietnamese Army. It’s not that kind of situation.”
Rogers noted that weeks ago, Biden “promised the American people that we would not have a Saigon moment in Afghanistan – Now, we are watching President Biden’s Saigon moment unfold before us.”
He said the “turmoil happening in Afghanistan is a surprise to no one.”
“Unfortunately, I believe the worst is yet to come,” Rogers said.
“Our allies are watching as Afghanistan rapidly deteriorates and President Biden still claims he does not regret his unconditional withdrawal. Make no mistake, the consequences of President Biden’s haphazard withdrawal will be felt for decades.
“All we needed was a plan to avoid this very moment. Mr. President, where is the plan?”
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday night that President Biden’s “weak leadership” has led to the current crisis.
Biden’s policy “looks at best naïve and at worst ignorant,” he told Fox News.
“Weakness begets war, and you can see what weak leadership ultimately leads to.”
Biden has insisted he has been subject to the withdrawal terms of the peace deal the Trump administration negotiated with the Taliban. But in a New York Times op-ed, Frederick W. Kagan, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, argued “there was still a way to pull out American troops while giving our Afghan partners a better chance to hold the gains we made with them over the last two decades.”
Pompeo said that Trump “had a conditions-based plan for how we would get our young men and women back home.”
“We were going to get our soldiers back, and we were going to make sure that this kind of thing you are seeing happened today could not happen, which is a breeding ground for what could potentially be terror attacks coming from this very place,” he said.
“I’ll never forget the president saying, ‘You got two missions, Mike. We have got to have an orderly plan and execution of leadership to actually do that, and then, second, you’ve got to make sure that we are never attacked from this place.'”
He said Trump “himself made clear to the Taliban leadership: Touch an American and we are going to come hard and we are going to come fast.”
‘Taliban’s victory is al-Qaida’s victory’
Acknowledging legitimate concerns about a “forever war,” after 20 years in Afghanistan, Washington Examiner columnist Tom Rogan argued that fewer than 10,000 U.S. military personnel were in Afghanistan before the order and a tiny fraction were engaged in ground combat. Four U.S. personnel died due to combat action in 2020, and none died in 2021.
“Instead, these forces were providing aviation, intelligence, and logistics support to Afghan forces and thus obstructing mass Taliban offensives. Offensives of the kind we see now, whereby the Taliban has nearly seized the entire country, and the U.S. Embassy may be overrun,” he wrote.
Retaining a limited military presence, he argued, “would have been a foundation for relative Afghan peace and very real U.S. counterterrorism security.”
“A similar model, then, to the U.S. military’s counterterrorism mission in East Africa. Let me emphasize the U.S. interest here: The absence of even a small U.S. military presence will make intelligence and targeting efforts against ISIS and the Taliban’s al Qaeda allies far more difficult. The Taliban’s victory is their victory.”
‘They stand to lose everything’
On Friday, a senior Biden administration State Department official deleted a tweet she posted warning that, amid the Taliban surge, Afghan women “stand to lose everything,” Fox News reported.
“Woke up with a heavy heart, thinking about all the Afghan women and girls I worked with during my time in Kabul,” wrote Molly Montgomery, deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs.
“They were the beneficiaries of many of the gains we made, and now they stand to lose everything.”
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