Biden’s Afghanistan Blame Game

Happy Friday! For those keeping track at home, it’s been a good week in the centuries-old war between humans and hippos.

Zimbabwean safari tour guide Paul Templer told the story of how he was able to escape the jaws of one of the beasts after falling out of his canoe in the Zambezi River, and a motorist driving an SUV accidentally rammed into one on a highway in Colombia.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The FBI arrested Jack Teixeira at his mother’s home in Dighton, Massachusetts, on Thursday, accusing the 21-year-old of leaking a number of classified U.S. government and military documents online. Teixeira has served in the Massachusetts Air National Guard since 2019 and was a member of the guard’s 102nd Intelligence Wing. His alleged leaks—which included details about the Ukrainian war and U.S. intelligence capabilities—have raised questions about the wide dissemination of classified information and led Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to order a review of intelligence management procedures.
  • Bloomberg reported earlier this week Russian President Vladimir Putin personally approved the arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich last month, possibly signaling the increasing influence of hard-liners in the Russian government intent on heightening tensions with the U.S. 
  • The Treasury Department announced another tranche of sanctions this week targeting several dozen Russian individuals and firms including Alisher Usmanov, one of Russia’s wealthiest oligarchs. The sanctions also aim to crack down on Russian oligarchs and firms evading already-imposed sanctions to further isolate the Russian economy from the global market.
  • President Joe Biden announced Thursday a new rule from the Department of Health and Human Services that, if implemented, would expand Medicaid access to DREAMers—participants in the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program—allowing them to apply for the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges. HHS estimates about 34 percent of the roughly 600,000 people enrolled in DACA are currently uninsured.
  • The Florida legislature passed a bill to ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy with exceptions up to 15 weeks for rape and incest (current Florida law includes a 15 week exception for the life of the mother). Gov. Ron DeSantis has expressed lukewarm support for the bill and is expected to sign it into law. “We welcome pro-life legislation,” he said when asked about the ban.
  • ProPublica reported Thursday Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas sold property in Savannah, Georgia—including the house where his mother was living—to Dallas real estate magnate and Republican donor Harlan Crow in 2014. Thomas—under fire for another ProPublica report alleging he had not disclosed numerous expensive vacations Crow gifted he and his wife—had not previously disclosed the sale, worth $133,363, which may be a violation of a federal disclosure law. Crow said in a statement he bought the house to one day turn it into a museum of Thomas’s life. (Disclaimer: Harlan Crow is a minority investor in The Dispatch and a friend of the founders.)
  • The Women’s Tennis Association said Thursday it will resume its tour in China in the fall, ending a 16-month boycott in response to tennis star Peng Shuai’s disappearance from public life after she accused a Communist Party member of sexual assault in 2021. She has appeared in public only a handful of times—including at the 2022 Beijing Olympics—since she posted the allegations on social media. The WTA said it will never secure its goal of a transparent investigation into the CCP member, adding those close to Peng had assured the organization of her safety. 
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported yesterday the producer price index (PPI)—a measure of what suppliers and wholesalers are charging customers—fell 0.5 percent month-over-month in March after increasing 0.4 percent in January and holding steady in February. Producer prices were up 2.7 percent year-over-year in March. The cooling could signal easing inflation to Federal Reserve officials, who will decide in May whether additional interest rate hikes are necessary to restrain inflation.
  • Republican Sen. Ted Budd of North Carolina endorsed Donald Trump on Thursday, becoming the seventh Republican senator to endorse the former president. Budd secured Trump’s endorsement for his 2022 Senate campaign, helping him defeat Gov. Pat McCrory in the primary.
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Thursday he would return to the Senate on Monday after being absent for more than a month to recover from a concussion sustained from a fall in early March. The announcement counters reports speculating McConnell might be preparing for retirement.

Chaos? What Chaos?

American soldiers watch over Afghan refugees waiting in line to be processed for an exit flight out of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021. (MARCUS YAM / LOS ANGELES TIMES)
American soldiers watch over Afghan refugees waiting in line to be processed for an exit flight out of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021. (MARCUS YAM / LOS ANGELES TIMES)

If you’re looking for someone to blame for the chaos that ensued as American troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021, the 12-page assessment released by the White House last week provides a menu of options:

  1. The Trump administration, for mucking everything up;
  2. Intelligence and military leaders, for completely missing the warning signs;
  3. Congress, for too much bureaucracy;
  4. The Afghans, for falling so quickly; and
  5. No one, because you know what—it actually wasn’t that bad!

Just about the only person absolved of culpability in the document is President Biden, depicted as a figure of heroic resolve failed by the national security apparatus, who nevertheless moved quickly to make the best of a bad situation inherited from his predecessor. Intelligence analysts and lawmakers have panned the summary—and question whether the administration has learned from its mistakes.

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