The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: afghan evacuation

Testimony By Military Chiefs Vindicates Biden's Afghan Decisions, Evacuation

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Top military leaders appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, taking questions from lawmakers about, among other topics, President Joe Biden's withdrawal from Afghanistan. Biden has faced heavy criticism for the chaotic evacuation and has seen his approval numbers decline since it was carried out. But despite much of the media's framing and the Republicans' spin, Biden's actions and choices were largely vindicated by the day's testimony.

CNN, for one, didn't see it that way. It aired a segment Tuesday afternoon focusing on the fact that officials testified that they advised Biden to leave 2,500 troops in Afghanistan rather than pull out completely at the end of August, as he did. Host Jake Tapper said this contradicted Biden's remark in an ABC News interview that he hadn't acted against the generals' advice.

Since the withdrawal, many commentators in the media concluded that the chaos that resulted must be blamed on Biden. Backed by military hawks, many of whom helped launch the disastrous War on Terror in the first place, pundits grasped for concrete failures they could pin on Biden. CNN and Tapper seemed happy to latch on to this one: Biden didn't listen to the generals. And to make it worse, he lied about it.

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz seized on this issue too:

But this framing of the hearing was superficial and misleading.

When Biden was asked by ABC News about reports about the generals advising him to leave troops in Afghanistan, he gave a defensive and admittedly confusing answer. At one point, he said he couldn't recall anyone giving him this advice. But he also said that the generals were "split" on the issue, directly implying that some of them had, in fact, given this advice. It was a squirrelly answer, to be sure, but it's not a major cover-up.

And the reality isn't a mystery at all. In fact, the central narrative of Biden's decision to pull out of Afghanistan was precisely that he was going against the mainstream views of the hawks in the national security community and the top military brass. Many argued that this was what made the decision bold and difficult for Biden, and it's why Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama before him were never able to leave the country, despite their stated desires to end such conflicts. Biden finally stood up to the generals.

After all, the general's advice to leave behind 2,500 troops wasn't a piece of tactical wisdom that Biden ignored. They were asking him to abandon his central policy objective on Afghanistan, which was to get out. They were also asking him to abandon the deal Trump had made in 2020 to finally leave the country.

For the media to latch on to this criticism is to give away the game so many of Biden's critics in the commentariat have played. It was a constant refrain from critics during the withdrawal that Biden's choice to leave — a highly popular position among voters — wasn't the problem; the problem was the way Biden did it. That argument completely collapses if one takes the position that the thing Biden could have done to withdraw better was not withdraw at all.

Indeed, despite the fact that so many of Biden's critics were desperate to say he botched a withdrawal that, in theory, could have been run properly, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley gave testimony completely contradicting this view.

"From an operational and tactical standpoint, [the evacuation] was successful. Strategically, the war was lost. The enemy is in Kabul," Milley said. "It was a logistical success but a strategic failure."

This is precisely what many in the media and the GOP refuse to acknowledge. The evacuation actually went off remarkably well, given the conditions it was carried out under. The military didn't expect the Afghan government to collapse as quickly as it did, but once it fell, the U.S. implemented a high-stakes plan to evacuate more than 100,000 people from a hostile country with impressive agility.

The strategic failure, such as it is, also isn't Biden's. It was a failure of the war itself, which began 20 years ago. But that fault doesn't lay with the Biden presidency. He came in with the Trump administration's agreement to leave the country already in place and with an American people who were ready to see the war end. And under his leadership, the military carried out a successful evacuation from a dismal situation.

Milley even admitted that, had the president followed his and others' advice to leave in 2,500 troops, the Afghan government wouldn't have been able to sustain itself when U.S. forces withdrew.

"The end-state probably would've been the same, no matter when you did it," he said.

And Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin admitted that, had the U.S. stayed behind past August, it would have reignited the war and required more troops to be sent in:

These facts effectively demolish the mainstream criticisms of Biden on Afghanistan. The evacuation was a logistical success. The main alternative Biden was presented with by the generals was leaving 2,500 troops behind. That would've reignited war with the Taliban, required more troops, and it wouldn't have fortified the Afghan government to better resist the Taliban in the future. It would've just been kicking the can down the road, and whenever the U.S. finally decided to pull out for real, the "end-state probably would've been the same."

But Biden's critics refuse to learn these lessons, even when they're presented under oath.

There is one major criticism of Biden on Afghanistan that does have merit, though, but Republicans and members of the media rarely raise it. He was much too slow in issuing Special Immigrant Visas that were already in the pipeline for Afghans who had helped the U.S. military and wanted to leave. And he should've made it much easier for refugees of all kinds to leave the country and come to the United States. Biden was far more permissive of accepting Afghan immigrants than the Trump administration was, but not nearly to the extent demanded by the circumstances and justice.

That's a very different story from the one we're hearing. But it's what the public should know.

Still Lying: Trump Claims Afghan Departure Left '$85 Billion' In Weapons

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

On Monday, August 30, former President Donald Trump claimed that the Taliban — now in control of Afghanistan — has seized $83 billion worth of U.S. weapons. But that claim has been fact-checked and refuted by the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler.

In his August 30 statement, Trump said, "Never in history has a withdrawal from war been handled so badly or incompetently as the Biden Administration's withdrawal from Afghanistan. In addition to the obvious, ALL EQUIPMENT should be demanded to be immediately returned to the United States and that includes every penny of the $85 billion dollars in cost. If it is not handed back, we should either go in w/unequivocal Military force and get it, or at least bomb the hell out of it."

Trump failed to mention, of course, that the Biden Administration was following the Trump/Mike Pompeo plan for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, although at a slower pace. Trump and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wanted the U.S. out of Afghanistan even sooner than President Joe Biden. While Biden wanted to withdraw troops before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Trump planned to remove them during the spring of 2021.

Kessler, discussing Trump's claims that the Taliban has seized $83 million worth of U.S. weapons, explains, "We don't normally pay much attention to claims made by the former president, as he mostly just riffs golden oldies. But this is a new claim. A version of this claim also circulates widely on right-leaning social media — that somehow, the Taliban has ended up with $83 billion in U.S. weaponry. Trump, as usual, rounds the number up."

Kessler adds, "The $83 billion number is not invented out of whole cloth. But it reflects all the money spent to train, equip and house the Afghan military and police — so weapons are just a part of that. At this point, no one really knows the value of the equipment that was seized by the Taliban."

The Post journalist notes that the $83 million figure "comes from an estimate in the July 30 quarterly report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) for all spending on the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund since the U.S. invasion in 2001."

According to Kessler, "The $83 billion spent on the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) goes back two decades, including almost $19 billion spent between 2002 and 2009."

Applying the Washington Post's "Pinocchio Test" to Trump, Kessler breaks down that $83 million some more.

Kessler notes, "U.S. military equipment was given to Afghan security forces over two decades. Tanks, vehicles, helicopters and other gear fell into the hands of the Taliban when the U.S.-trained force quickly collapsed…. But the value of the equipment is not more than $80 billion. That's the figure for all of the money spent on training and sustaining the Afghan military over 20 years. The equipment portion of that total is about $24 billion — certainly not small change — but the actual value of the equipment in the Taliban's hands is probably much less than even that amount."

Carlson Accuses Biden Of Importing Afghan Rapist — But Border Officials Flagged Perp

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

On Monday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has a history of making racist and xenophobic comments, attacked the effort to rescue Afghan refugees and bring them to America as a program to "import some rapists." He also threw in a white supremacist talking point to suggest that the Biden administration was using the refugee crisis as part of a plan to "change our country."

Carlson's smear was based on an article published in the Washington Times earlier that day.

Discussing the U.S. evacuation of Afghan refugees from Kabul, Carlson said during a segment of his program Tucker Carlson Tonight, "So they look around and they say, Hmm, how can we make this a little bit worse? I have an idea, let's import some rapists. That would make it worse than we've already made it. And they have."

Carlson said "that a previously deported rapist was among the Afghan refugees that just landed at Dulles Airport" in Virginia. "Of course, let's import rapists, 'cause it's not bad enough," Carlson repeated.

But according to the story Carlson cited, the existing process of screening would-be refugees worked to identify the person.

The Washington Times reported that Ghader Heydari, a convicted rapist, was flagged by border officials at Dulles, noting they "spotted his criminal and immigration history and derailed his entry."

The paper said, "Heydari's exact path to entry is not clear, though it's unlikely he holds a Special Immigrant Visa. Those were reserved for Afghans who provided significant support for the U.S. in the war effort. It's also not likely he is a refugee, given his immigration history."

Carlson's guest during the segment, Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-WI), offered no rebuttal as Carlson continued to smear refugees.

Tiffany said that refugees currently staying at U.S. Army Garrison Fort McCoy in Wisconsin were not being vetted, did not hold the Special Immigrant Visas allocated to those who had assisted the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, and were there "on parole" on the authority of the secretary of homeland security, "and he can just wave people in. They have circumvented, the Biden administration has circumvented the SIV process and they're just bringing people in on parole." Tiffany added that people were able to leave the base without the authority of the general who oversees it.

Carlson said, "If we're going to import thousands of unvetted Afghan Pashtun tribesmen, why aren't we moving them to the places where the people who make these decisions live?" specifically the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. Tiffany answered, "Well, that would really be a good idea," before saying that refugees need to be vetted in a "safe third country like Qatar, someplace like that."

But the refugees at Fort McCoy are being vetted, despite the accusations from both men.

At a briefing on August 23, White House officials told reporters that refugees brought to the facility are subject to multiple screenings — biometric, biographic, and health screenings — before they reach the base.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted that the Fort McCoy arrivals include people in the middle of the Special Immigrant Visa process, green card holders, and vulnerable populations that include professors, female journalists, and female students.

Carlson concluded the segment by invoking the white supremacist "great replacement" conspiracy theory, alleging that Afghan refugees are being brought to America by Democrats who "are just using a crisis to change our country — they'll never lose another election, that's the point, as you know."

Tiffany nodded.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

New York Times Puffs DeSantis — And Blisters Biden

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Within the span of 24 hours, the New York Times provided more evidence that the paper treats the two political parties differently, especially when it comes to Democratic and Republican leaders facing crisis. In this case, it's President Joe Biden grappling with the U.S. troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, versus Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose state became a global epicenter for Covid this summer.

The Times showed how it's willing to normalize atrocious behavior by Republicans while holding Democrats to unfair standards.

On Sunday, the paper published a striking whitewash of DeSantis' nearly criminal actions regarding Covid this year. Eying a White House run in 2024, and hoping to tap into the GOP's anti-science base, DeSantis has played politics with public health. He's tried to bar schools from mandating masks, stood in the way of hospital vaccine mandates, and demanded cruise lines allow unvaccinated passengers to set sail. He even placed one million orders of hydroxychloroquine in tribute to Trump. And now the state is paying a steep price for his cavalier governance.

"The viral load in Florida is so high right now, there are only two places on the planet where it's higher," Dr. Jonathan Reiner recently told CNN. "It's so high in Florida that I think that if Florida were another country, we would have to consider banning travel from Florida to the United States."

Yet reading the Times' Sunday article you'd think DeSantis, who is referenced just four times in the lengthy piece, was a bit player in this man-made drama. You'd think the Sunshine State's descent into mass Covid death was some kind of unavoidable, twist of fate. "Exactly why the state has been so hard-hit remains an elusive question," the Times reported, naively throwing up its hands.

The daily also engaged in misinformation when it claimed Florida under DeSantis "emphasized vaccinations" and "made a strong push" to innoculate people. "Florida State Representative, here. This is ridiculous," tweeted Democrat Omarji Hardy, responding to the Times. "There was not anything resembling a "strong push" for vaccinations in Florida."

The Times piece didn't bother quoting a single DeSantis critic, even though just days earlier Miami Mayor Dan Gelber had announced unequivocally that DeSantis' policies "are literally killing people."

Compare that brand of kid-glove analysis to the Times page-one piece by White House correspondent Peter Baker on Saturday, who suggested the Afghanistan troop withdrawal was entirely Biden's doing, the president used questionable judgement, and Biden's responsible for U.S. loss of life.

Unlike the DeSantis piece, the Time's Biden article was overflowing with quotes from his critics, eager to second guess. In fact, the first person Baker quoted was someone who worked on President George W. Bush's Iraq War team; the war that doomed U.S. to failure in Afghanistan. One week earlier, Baker had been on the front page with another Afghanistan piece, implying Biden was incompetent and lacked empathy, two descriptions the paper won't apply to DeSantis.

Over this weekend, the Times also published a nasty opinion piece, which called the evacuation of 120,000 people from the Kabul airport "incompetent," and suggested Biden, whose late son served in the Iraq War, does not "value" men and women who serve our country.

The Times POV couldn't be clearer: DeSantis is trying his best, Biden's in over his head.

The Times' Sunday DeSantis whitewash, which was widely criticized online, represents a larger pattern by the newspaper to run interference for the Republican governor this year. Three weeks ago, the Times again tried to normalize DeSantis' dangerous behavior, suggesting that outlawing mask mandates and threatening to withhold pay from teachers during a pandemic might be the new normal [emphasis added]:

If, however, Florida comes through another virus peak with both its hospital system and economy intact, Mr. DeSantis's game of chicken with the deadly pandemic could become a model for how to coexist with a virus that is unlikely to ever fully vanish.

Amazing — if DeSantis' policies don't obliterate Florida's healthcare system and its economy, then maybe he's creating a new model. That Times article also failed to quote a single DeSantis critic, in a look at how the controversial Republican was managing the pandemic.

The newspaper actually began covering for DeSantis back in April when the Times published a front-page valentine, typing up his press office spin about how Florida was "booming" and he had somehow figured out how to carve out a Covid-free region for the Sunshine State. "In a country just coming out of the morose grip of coronavirus lockdowns, Florida feels unmistakably hot," the Times gushed.

All three DeSantis stories were written by the paper's Miami bureau chief Patricia Mazzei. Why would she seemingly go out of her way to provide cover for DeSantis as he eyes a likely presidential run? My guess is it has to do with access and maintaining cordial relations with DeSantis' communications team, which I guarantee was thrilled with the latest Times dispatch from Florida.

If and when DeSantis runs for president, journalists who are covering him now likely want to be assigned to his campaign, which would then serve as their ticket out of Florida. That's how the Beltway media game is played — scores of reporters who covered George W. Bush in Texas were rewarded with campaign assignments and then re-assigned to cover him in Washington, D.C.

Fact: It's not too late for the Times to fix its Florida coverage.

Leaving Afghanistan Shows Wisdom, Not Weakness

The suicide bombing that killed 13 U.S. service members and at least 169 Afghans was an atrocity that evoked horror in Americans of every political persuasion. But among those who want to continue the war, the loss was taken as proof that the U.S. should have persisted in a mission that had previously claimed the lives of more than 2,400 Americans.

Had we been willing to go on spilling American blood to stay in Afghanistan, we would not have had to spill blood leaving it. The logic is peculiar.

But the hawks always find a way to justify endless war. They can't very well pretend that we could win in Afghanistan, now or ever. So they find boundless reasons to criticize the manner of our withdrawal, which was bound to be a messy, dangerous process.

They also resort to hollow cliches. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the administration of "weakness." Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), asserted that "China and Russia will look to capitalize on Biden's weakness." Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass said the outcome "will reinforce questions about U.S. reliability."

Some of our European allies joined the chorus. A Conservative parliamentary leader in Britain said the withdrawal is "the biggest foreign policy disaster since Suez" — as though the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were not gargantuan catastrophes.

Carping about alleged displays of weakness and loss of credibility is the familiar fallback of those trying to sustain a pointless military undertaking. They insist that ending it will have harmful effects on how others perceive us — a claim so vaporous it is impossible to disprove.

Their logic is that if we do something stupid, we have to keep doing it no matter what, because, you know, only weak people repent of their stupidity.

But if committing 20 years — as well as nearly 25,000 American casualties and more than $2 trillion — didn't persuade other governments of our resolve and staying power, it's hard to believe that Year 21 would be a game-changer. Foreigners might instead marvel at our willingness to lavish so much for so long on a mission that did little or nothing to enhance our security. They could deduce that when genuine U.S. interests are at stake, the sky is the limit on what we'd be willing to do.

Biden has shown a dedication to strengthening our alliances that his predecessor did not. President Donald Trump showed much fonder feelings for Russian President Vladimir Putin than for German Chancellor Angela Merkel or French President Emmanuel Macron.

Trump, in fact, bitterly resented our support of NATO. He even raised the possibility of refusing to honor our obligation, under Article 5 of the alliance treaty, to come to the defense of any member of the alliance who was attacked. Privately, he repeatedly expressed his desire to pull out of NATO.

Biden, by contrast, proudly wore a NATO lapel pin to a summit with European leaders in Brussels and declared: "Article 5 we take as a sacred obligation. I want NATO to know America is there." His principal difference with Merkel and Macron at that meeting lay in his desire to take a tougher line against China.

History offers additional evidence that ending a foolish, costly war will not degrade our international standing. Hawkish types said our 1973 withdrawal from Vietnam would speed the march of communism throughout the world. But it somehow failed to prevent the collapse of the Soviet Union, the liberation of Eastern Europe, or the capitalist transformation of China.

Our adversaries have good reason not to test the proposition that the Biden administration is weak. Our military spending, after all, amounts to more than that of the next 11 countries combined. Our Navy has a dominant worldwide reach that no other country can come remotely close to matching.

Our ground forces have decades of combat experience that Russian and Chinese troops lack. Our peerless air power is a deterrent to adversaries from Tehran to Pyongyang.

Ending our involvement in Afghanistan doesn't weaken our posture against our adversaries. It strengthens it, by letting us direct our resources and attention to matters that directly implicate our national security. Biden, for better or worse, is not presiding over a retreat from our role in the world — merely a sensible reshaping of it.

Thursday's bombing was a disaster. But staying in Afghanistan would only have guaranteed more like it.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

Afghans Who Won Visa Lottery Left Behind By Trump Policy

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

Fakhruddin Akbari is allowing his full name to be published because he is certain he is going to die. Akbari, his wife and his 3-year-old daughter fled their home in Kabul, Afghanistan, two weeks ago. They've been hiding with friends in the city, living on bread and water.

He should be among the lucky ones.

Instead, Akbari fears the very thing he was hoping would be his salvation will now make him a target.

Two years ago, Akbari won a rare spot in the United States' "visa lottery." He was chosen at random from a pool of 23 million to get the chance to apply for one of 55,000 visas to immigrate to the U.S. The U.S. was supposed to have finished his case by last fall. The instructions when he registered promised as much. Either he would be safely en route to the U.S., or he would lose his chance and move on.

But with the final U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan just days away — and as Thursday's bombings have added even more chaos at Kabul's airport — Akbari has almost certainly lost his chance to get out.

He has already burned the letters of commendation his relatives received for their work with American contractors or allied militaries. The Taliban already know, he says, that he's part of a pro-American family. His neighbors have told him they've been visited by strangers asking about him.

A March 2020 ban signed by President Donald Trump, citing a need to protect the American economy, prevented Akbari and visa lottery winners from entering the U.S. In response to a lawsuit by immigration lawyers, a federal judge ruled earlier this month that the government has to move ahead on processing thousands of last year's lottery winners. But the U.S. has told the judge it can't even start until fall 2022 at the earliest.

Several hundred Afghans are in the group. They may be the unluckiest winners in the visa lottery's 30-year history.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment before publication.

The lottery isn't open to everyone. Winners must come from a country that hasn't had much recent immigration to the U.S. Applicants for the visas must also submit biometric information, pass an interview and medical screening, and complete several security checks.

Nouman, an Afghan lottery winner who asked that his full name not be used over fear of the Taliban, spent months tracking down police documents from the Chinese town where he'd worked for a few years, to prove he had a clean record.

Those requirements are still far less restrictive than other ways to legally immigrate to the U.S., which generally require being closely related to a citizen or green-card holder or having a job offer from an American company. In Afghanistan, interest in the lottery is so great that Nouman said it took him two days to successfully log onto the swamped website where lottery results were posted.

But unlike other visas, diversity visas — the type lottery winners become eligible to receive — are on a tight and unvarying schedule.

Lottery winners are notified in the early summer. After submitting their full application, they can only be interviewed at the nearest U.S. consulate once the federal fiscal year begins on October 1. Then the whole process has to be completed within a year. Eligibility for the visa doesn't roll over.

Usually, most of the annual 55,000 visas have been handed out by that time. But last year, two things happened. First, in mid-March, consulates around the world shut down because of the pandemic. Two weeks later, Trump declared that letting in immigrants would hamper the recovery of the economy, and he signed the order barring most types of immigrants — including diversity visa holders.

When U.S. embassies and consulates began to reopen last summer, a State Department cable disclosed as part of the lawsuit shows they were instructed to handle diversity visas last, even if they met the narrow exemptions to the ban.

Giving someone a visa is legally distinct from letting them enter the U.S., and critics of Trump's actions — including a group of lawyers who filed lawsuits over the bans — argued that even if the ban were legal, consulates could still prepare visas so that recipients could come after the ban was rescinded, which President Joe Biden did this February.

In early September last year, Judge Amit Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia agreed with the argument and ordered the government to make up for lost time, prioritizing diversity visa applicants ahead of everyone else for the last 26 days of the fiscal year.

The State Department's bureaucracy took a few days to get into gear. Then it began a process that turned out to be far from efficient.

Officials compiled a spreadsheet of applicants who had joined the now-consolidated suit and were supposed to be prioritized, but it was riddled with misspelled names and incorrect case numbers. In a court declaration, a State Department official from a different office said the spreadsheet took "many queries" from his team to fix.

Once consulates and embassies got the correct names, they rushed appointments, often giving applicants little notice. The Kabul embassy wasn't participating at all, so any Afghan appointments were set up in different countries — or continents.

At least three Afghan immigrants, including Nouman, were scheduled for interviews in Cameroon. All three were given one day's notice to get there. (Nouman, at least, was able to get a later appointment in Islamabad, Pakistan.)

Many more weren't given interviews at all. According to court filings, some State Department employees told applicants who called the office handling the cases that if they hadn't officially joined the lawsuit, "you lost your chance" — which wasn't true. When a COVID-19 outbreak hit the office and workers went remote, the help line shut down entirely.

When the fiscal year ended on Sept. 30, 2020, more than 40,000 of the 55,000 diversity visas were still unused — and several hundred Afghans were still waiting. Less than 20% of the Afghan lottery winners had gotten visas by the deadline.

That day, Mehta had ordered the State Department to reserve 9,505 slots, based on his estimate of how many diversity visas could have been processed if COVID-19 had existed but the ban didn't. When the case finally concluded this month, he declared that the government would indeed have to process those visas.

That opinion came down on August 17, two days after Kabul fell.

In a response filed to Mehta on Thursday, the government offered to start processing last year's visas in October 2022. One reason given for the proposed delay was that processing older visas is "an unprecedented computing demand that will require the Department to implement wide-ranging hardware and software modifications." Another was that processing diversity visas would take resources away from dealing with the crisis in Afghanistan.

It went unmentioned that some people are affected by both.

Lawyers for the affected immigrants made an emergency filing this week, with testimony from several Afghans worried that they would be targeted by the Taliban precisely because they had sought to immigrate to the U.S. They're hoping the court will order expedited consideration for Afghan lottery winners.

The lawyers are moving to appeal for the court to order that Afghans get priority in the visa process. The plaintiffs' lawyers had asked the government to consent to their filing the request. The government's response — after several days of silence, delaying the filing — was to call it an "unnecessary distraction."

In a meeting by phone on Monday, according to two people on the call, another government attorney complained that he'd been getting emails from applicants "all over the world" and blamed their lawyers for posting his address online. One of those emails was a desperate cry for help from Akbari. "We are totally hopeless and every knock of the door seems like a call to death for us," Akbari wrote. "Please help us."

In the time since sending that email, Akbari and his family have made two attempts to get to Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport. The first time, he says, they were beaten back by the Taliban. The second time he was stopped by the United States. The Marines guarding the airport said they couldn't enter. The reason? They did not have visas.

For Republicans, Afghanistan Is Merely Another Way To Damage Biden

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

On Thursday, President Joe Biden addressed the nation after an explosion outside of Hamid Karzai International Airport took the lives of 13 American service members. In that speech, Biden sent condolences to the families of those lost, promised to track down the terrorists behind the attack, reaffirmed his commitment to carry on with the evacuation in Afghanistan, praised the sacrifice and dedication of the all-volunteer military, took full responsibility for his decisions, and doubled-down on bringing the 20-year conflict to a close.

In response, Republicans made it clear that they have a strategy of their own. That strategy won't get one more person out of Afghanistan. It won't save the lives of a single service member. It's not concerned with finding the ISIS-K terrorists behind the explosion. It isn't concerned with taking any responsibility. It most certainly doesn't want the war to end. Nope. The Republican plan for Afghanistan is blindingly simple: With the help of the media, use it to damage Joe Biden.

As CNN reports, the only thing bothering Republicans about Afghanistan is a divide over just how they can leverage the death of American service members as political fodder.

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan sent 800 U.S. Marines into Lebanon to help push leftist Palestinians out of the country and protect gains made by the Christian Phalange militia in a long-running civil war. Afterward, a Marine was killed by a bomb, snipers killed several more Marines, 63 people were killed when a suicide driver cruised an explosive-laden van into the U.S. embassy, and 241 service members were killed when another terrorist drove a sophisticated truck bomb into the central Marine barracks. It was the most significant single-day number of American Marines lost since the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Post-bombing reports showed that the Marines had not been allowed to maintain a secure perimeter for pollical reasons. Still, Reagan went in front of the nation and vowed that the Marines would stay until the mission was complete. Except they didn't. After four months of no progress, Reagan pulled the Marines out. The identities of the terrorists who drove a van into the U.S. embassy and the terrorists who drove a truck into the Marine barracks were never established. It was never clear where they came from or what group they supported.

Following this, Reagan was reelected by a record margin in November 1984. But that, of course, was a different time. Also, Reagan managed to squeeze a whole second war into the time between pulling out the Marines and Election Day. And in that second little war—which even Margaret Thatcher thought was ridiculous—only 20 Marines got killed. Reagan ran on these examples of his willingness to expend American lives.

Currently, there's a civil war in the Republican Party between those who want to impeach Joe Biden (or call on him to resign right now ) and those who are willing to wait until Republicans gain an expected House majority in the 2022 election.

Few things could illustrate the total lack of concern that Republicans hold for the actual situation in Afghanistan better than a press briefing McCarthy held on Friday morning. As NBC News reporter Jake Sherman reported, McCarthy didn't bother with checking to see if he had a coherent statement concerning what was actually happening. Instead, the Republican leader called for every troop to come out of Afghanistan while simultaneously insisting that Bagram Airbase be reoccupied. Then he said that America should keep some troops in Afghanistan, but we shouldn't be negotiating with the Taliban. And when it was pointed out that Trump negotiated with the Taliban, McCarthy just moved on to debate the best time to impeach Biden. McCarthy doesn't have a position on that, either, because McCarthy's position is never more than what the crowd is calling for at that exact second.

When it comes to developing an actual proposal on what to do in Afghanistan, Republicans have one clear position: Why?

Why should they? Why bother when, as Huff Post pointed out on Thursday, Republicans can simultaneously make calls for actions that would require Biden to reinvade the entire country, and at the same time, criticize him for not getting every single person out of the nation without a scratch. The media won't challenge the lack of reason or consistency. Why do anything more? As long as Republicans can see that networks will gladly put them on the air and echo their statements about "chaos" and "failure," having an actual strategy on Afghanistan would only be a liability.

That frees Republicans to concentrate on the one thing that genuinely concerns them: 2022. Untethered from either the necessity of governing or the need to have a coherent platform, Republicans can be all-attack all the time. That allows statements like this from Republican Rep. Mark Green, "I'd put more military in there, I'd get every single American out, and I'd start killing bad guys." Or Sen. Ben Sasse writing a note in which he declares that America needs to "reverse course" and occupy most of Afghanistan because ending the war shows "weakness."

None of it makes sense. It doesn't have to make sense. Because Republicans don't consider their enemy to be either the Taliban or ISIS-K, they don't consider their goal to be getting Americans out safely. They certainly aren't interested in ending the war.

They're only interested in evacuating Democrats from the House, Senate, and White House. And in that scheme, they seem to have plenty of allies.

Casualties Surged In Afghanistan Under Trump, But Nobody Urged Him To Resign

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Multiple Republican members of Congress have called on President Joe Biden to resign or be impeached after ISIS carried out a terror attack in Afghanistan on Thursday that killed 13 American troops and more than 150 Afghan citizens.

But Republican lawmakers never called on former President Donald Trump to resign or face impeachment for his record in Afghanistan, even with a dramatic increase in Afghan civilian deaths during his term and the deaths of 63 troops from 2017 to 2020, according to a count from the Defense Department.

The GOP lawmakers calling for Biden to face consequences for the attack are some of Trump's biggest supporters on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) is circulating an article of impeachment against Biden, tweeting Friday morning: "Biden and all key decision makers are responsible for the deaths of 13 soldiers. The Taliban allowed the ISIS attacks. US officials gave them a kill list. And we have not retaliated? There should be harsh punishment against the Taliban and ISIS-K. And we must #ImpeachBiden!"

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) said he co-sponsored the article of impeachment against Biden that Greene is circulating, adding in a statement, "The President promised to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, but it is evident the President has failed to fulfill this charge."

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) also called for Biden's resignation, tweetingThursday afternoon, "To say that today's loss of American lives in Kabul is sickening does not begin to do justice to what has happened. It is enraging. And Joe Biden is responsible. It is now clear beyond all doubt that he has neither the capacity nor the will to lead. He must resign."

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) — who is running in a crowded GOP primary for Missouri's open Senate seat —called on Biden to resign over the attack as well.

"President Biden must resign," she tweeted Friday morning. "His standing in America, and the world, is forever diminished. It is time he realize this and acknowledge our recovery begins with his resignation as president. It is the right thing to do."

Hawley and Duncan had supported Trump's Afghanistan withdrawal plan and pushed Biden to follow through with it — only to now call on Biden to resign.

While Thursday was the deadliest single day of the war in Afghanistan since 2011, according to the New York Times, American troops have died in the conflict every year since it began nearly 20 years ago.

In 2020, for example, 11 American troops were killed in the war, while 23 died in 2019, according to Defense Department data.

Republicans never called on Trump to resign for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic either. By the time he left office, 400,000 people had died in the United States from COVID-19.

Biden expressed deep remorse for the deaths of the American troops who died trying to evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies who helped the United States during the 20-year conflict.

"These American service members who gave their lives — it's an overused word, but it's totally appropriate — they were heroes," Biden said in remarks from the White House Thursday evening. "Heroes who have been engaged in a dangerous, selfless mission to save the lives of others."

He vowed retribution against the terrorists whose attack killed the troops and Afghans who were trying to leave the country.

"To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay," Biden said. "I will defend our interests and our people with every measure at my command."

More than 110,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan since late July, according to a White House official. The vast majority — or 105,000 — have been evacuated since August 14.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.