Afghanistan retreat will define Joe Biden’s presidency – Bill Carmichael

THE images coming out of Afghanistan in the last week have been nothing short of heart-breaking.

Will President Joe Biden's credibility recover from the Afghanistan debacle?

Desperate people swarming the airport, trying to force their way onto planes and even clinging to the outside of jets as they take off, in a doomed attempt to flee the country.

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They must know that the chances of surviving such an attempt are infinitesimally tiny, but anticipating the realities of life under the brutal Taliban regime, they are prepared to take any risk.

A man holds a certificate acknowledging his work for Americans as hundreds of people gather outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, as the humanitarian crisis deepens.

Parallels have been made with the fall of Saigon in 1975, and certainly this feels like the West’s biggest foreign policy failure since the loss of Vietnam.

But it was another video that went viral this week that really brought home the tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan. Apparently shot earlier this year it shows a female reporter asking a group of Taliban fighters if they would be prepared to accept democratically elected women politicians, at which point they fall about laughing and demand she stops filming.

The reality is that women bear the brunt of the Taliban’s reactionary and misogynist creed.

Between 1995 and 2001, when the Taliban were in power in Afghanistan, they infamously allowed international terror groups, such as al-Qaida, a base 
to plot attacks against civilians in the West.

Taliban fighters stand guard at a checkpoint near the US embassy that was previously manned by American troops, in Kabul, Afghanistan.

But they also brutally suppressed their own population, particularly women, forcing girls’ schools to close, making the burqa mandatory, sacking women from their jobs and in some areas stopping women from leaving their homes 
entirely.

In the last 20 years, under Western influence, Afghanistan has made huge strides in terms of human rights and equality for women and all these gains are now at risk. So it was good news to hear the Home Secretary Priti Patel committing the Government to accepting 20,000 Afghan refugees and giving priority to women, girls and persecuted minorities. This is the only compassionate and decent thing to do.

Spare a thought also this week for the armed forces veterans who served in Afghanistan and who saw comrades killed or terribly injured. It must be tempting to think those sacrifices were in vain, but it is a temptation we must resist because Western intervention in Afghanistan achieved much good.

Most importantly it destroyed al-Qaida and severely dented the ability of Islamist terror groups to carry out atrocities in the West. Secondly, it gave the people of Afghanistan a glimpse of the benefits of a free society. I hope a seed has been planted which will germinate once the Taliban regime ends in failure, as it inevitably will.

As for US President Joe Biden, the fall of Afghanistan and his abject surrender to the Taliban is an unmitigated disaster that is likely to define his presidency.

Only weeks ago he was reassuring the American people that there was no chance of the Taliban overrunning Afghanistan when the Americans withdrew. This week, as the disaster unfolded, he tried to frame the debate as a choice between massively ramping up American operations, leading to more US casualties, or leaving immediately.

But many strategists point to a 
third option – maintaining a small 
force of allied troops of just a few thousand to provide training, 
intelligence and, most crucially, air cover, and letting the Afghans do the actual fighting.

That is what has happened in recent months and until Biden ordered a total withdrawal, it worked – the Taliban was kept at bay and the last American casualty was 18 months ago.

Now the withdrawal has all gone terribly wrong, Biden is looking to blame anyone but himself, including Donald Trump and the Afghan army.

In a blistering retort in the House of Commons, the Conservative MP and former soldier Tom Tugendhat said for the President to question the courage of Afghan soldiers was “shameful”, adding: “Those who have not fought for the colours they fly should be careful about criticising those who have.”

As a result of the President’s actions, our enemies have been emboldened, the Afghan people will suffer, the reputation of the West and the US in particular have been badly damaged and there’s a strong chance terror groups will be able to plot mayhem once again.

I can’t see Biden recovering from this debacle.

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