I Think This is Right

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August 15, 2021 1:56 p.m.

I think this is right. From TPM Reader JB

Just a note here about the ongoing US bugout from Afghanistan, that I suspect we’ll hear more about in the months to come.

President Biden has a long memory; the events of 2009-10, when then-President Obama was jammed by the military leadership into what proved to be an aimless, futile surge of US forces into Afghanistan, have to be a major factor in his thinking. A more deliberate, better planned withdrawal would have been preferable to what we are seeing now in many respects — notably, to get more of America’s Afghan friends out of the country.

Had Biden directed a withdrawal of this kind, how would the US military leadership have responded? If Biden suspected the response would have been a months-long campaign of foot-dragging and leaking — to pressure him toward the military’s preferred course of staying in Afghanistan indefinitely — would he have been wrong?

I misjudge the man if he were not convinced this very thing would happen. There seems little question that 99% of the impetus for withdrawing now from Afghanistan, in a way that cannot be reversed, is coming from Biden personally. As a matter of strategy, and as one of keeping faith with Afghans who depended on us, this withdrawal is suboptimal. Biden is fully responsible for it.

But from his point of view it probably looks like the best option available — the others being, respectively, no withdrawal at all and a protracted, semi-public tug-of-war with senior military officers deeply invested in putting off unpleasant decisions about an Afghan project that has defined so many military careers. Biden looks determined not to let the military leadership do to him what it did to Obama a decade ago.

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Public discussion of this subject is not dwelling on Biden’s relationship with the US military leadership. I predict this will change.

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