America can never let happen again the grossly incompetent and politically driven decision-making that led to the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan. The people who made or who advised those decisions—including the president of the United States—must be held fully accountable for the loss of lives, for abandoning Americans in Afghanistan, for the arming of the enemy with our military equipment, and for the fact that we are now less safe than we were 20 years ago when the war began.
That accountability starts with an independent investigative commission to examine how such an unmitigated disaster was allowed to happen. Such an investigation must be a truly bipartisan effort, where commissioners are willing to go wherever the facts lead them, regardless of who they implicate or embarrass. That means avoiding giving the president and his advisors cover and subordinating political party loyalty to the needs of the country. Accountability also means firing the top administration officials and military brass who went along with these fatal decisions.
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Americans can debate whether there was good reason to leave Afghanistan after 20 years, but what can’t be debated are the disastrous consequences of President Joe Biden’s precipitous pullout. He let the entire nation of Afghanistan fall to a terrorist regime dedicated to bringing down the West, and in doing so, he has opened the door for a more dangerous future for America and our allies.
President Biden left the Taliban with more territorial control of Afghanistan than it had on September 11, 2001. He also let the Taliban open up the Afghanistan prisons and free thousands of terrorists the U.S. and our Afghan partners had captured over two decades. And because of his arbitrary evacuation deadline that he stubbornly stuck to accommodate the terrorists, he abandoned hundreds of Americans and thousands of Afghan allies, leaving them behind as hostages. The Taliban will most certainly use those hostages to barter for additional money and weapons to commit more terrorist attacks.
There is also a major new recruitment drive for Jihadist groups in Afghanistan, as nothing attracts new followers like the success the Taliban was just handed by the most powerful nation in the world. Terrorists are now welcome in Afghanistan again, and terrorist groups will be flocking there. A few weeks ago, Osama bin Laden’s former head of security, Amin al Haq, returned to Afghanistan after being gone for the past 20 years.
Because of this president’s gross incompetence, not only have America’s adversaries been emboldened, but America’s friends and allies are seriously questioning American resolve for future conflicts that we may find ourselves in. The trust we had with our NATO allies has been severely compromised—they received no advance warning of the pullout and struggled to safely get their own people out of Afghanistan.
Over the past few weeks, our Heritage Foundation experts have spoken to dozens of foreign diplomats, and all have expressed the same concern about the stunning lack of American leadership under Biden.
And the alienation of our allies couldn’t come at a worse time, as America also faces rising threats from an increasingly adversarial Chinese Communist Party, from Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and a nuclear-armed Iran that for years has pledged “Death to America.” The pullout has only emboldened their resolve, and they are now more willing to test how far they can push America under this president.
Throughout this mess, President Biden has done everything from blaming his military advisors to the intelligence community to former President Donald Trump for his disastrous decisions. At the same time, he has also strangely taken credit for how great he thinks the withdrawal went. The bottom line is, President Biden is the commander-in-chief, and the decisions were ultimately his to make.
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It’s not just the president who is pointing fingers, however, there is a lot of that going on throughout the administration. An independent, bipartisan commission created by Congress but not comprised of any current members of Congress is needed to sort out the facts and get to the truth. Then the president, as well as those who so ill-advised him, must be held accountable.
Only through honest fact-finding and true accountability, not whitewashing and hand slapping, will we have any chance at discouraging future administrations from making such wrongheaded, blatantly political decisions that cost American lives, America’s safety, and America’s projection of strength and stability around the world.
This piece originally appeared in The Washington Times