President Joe Biden went against the advice of his top military commanders in authorizing the complete withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan this month. As first reported in April by the Wall Street Journal, Biden ignored military recommendations to maintain a small security force in the country to facilitate an orderly transition of military power to Afghani security.
Biden opted to go forward with President Trump’s agreement with the Taliban to remove U.S. personnel. Still, by his admission, he overestimated the capability of the Afghanistan government.
He had been advised to negotiate the agreement by Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Austin Scott Miller, NATO commander in Afghanistan. The generals advised the president to keep approximately 2,500 troops active while diplomats worked on a new peace settlement.
The WSJ reported that Biden’s desire to end involvement in Afghanistan before the twentieth anniversary of the September 11 attacks led to his overriding of military advice. The paper also reported that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin shared the concerns of the top military leaders.
Vice President Kamala Harris was reported to have been integrally involved in Biden’s withdrawal decision. She said that she had a key role and was the “last person in the meeting room” when the decision was made.
On the afternoon of August 15, the Pentagon announced that at least 1,000 troops were being deployed immediately to secure the Kabul airport and the evacuation of diplomatic personnel and civilians. The announcement followed the news that the Taliban had taken over the Afghan presidential palace and the country’s overall government.
Biden attempted to deflect his blame for the chaotic end of the twenty-year occupation on August 16 during his first public address following the collapse of the Afghani government. He pointed at alleged faults in the previous agreement brokered by President Trump and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Ghani fled the country shortly before the Taliban entered Kabul over the weekend. Biden expressed his frustration at the evacuation by the civil government and the failure of the U.S.-funded and trained national security forces. Biden is finding few backers among fellow Democrats and virtually universal criticism from Republicans over the end of American involvement in Afghanistan.