What We Learned When the Generals Went to Congress

Anyone stumped by President Joe Biden’s unwavering adherence to a single path for the American combat mission in Afghanistan need only glance backward 12 years. From Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009 onward, the former Delaware senator was the administration’s staunchest and loudest voice opposing the continuation of the United States’ war in Afghanistan.

“I am not sending my boy back there to risk his life on behalf of women’s rights!” Biden famously said in 2010, after Obama’s “surge” deployed tens of thousands additional troops to Afghanistan, and very likely around the same time Beau Biden suffered the stroke that would first portend his battle with terminal brain cancer. The vice president’s outspokenness on the matter of Afghanistan was, according to some, a source of tension with the former president.

In a quest to finish unfinished business, it now seems, Biden overlooked guidance from dissenters within his own administration to move forward with a full withdrawal. 

In the month since that withdrawal, media leaks emanating from different bureaucratic arms of the federal government have offered clarifying—but more often, conflicting—narratives of the departure’s final days. Nobody foresaw the rate at which the Taliban advance would sweep Afghanistan (save the intelligence agencies!). President Biden heeded the advice of his military advisers every step of the way (except when he didn’t!). The civilian evacuation went as well as could have been expected given time constraints (but the Pentagon urged that it start much, much sooner!). 

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