“Here I am Lord, send me”, Joe Biden quoted the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah in his belated statement on the killing of 13 American servicemen and women in Kabul last week. A peculiarly inappropriate reference. The last thing anyone needed was this geriatric president dashing to Kabul. Anyway, the point about Isaiah was surely that he stayed the course and did not abandon Judah.
President Biden’s halting press conference was disturbing in a number of ways. Not least because he initially made it about him, reprising his own family bereavement. And for the vainglorious promises of retribution on Isis-Khorasan, and presumably the Taliban, who of course are kissing cousins of the demented Jihadists who organised the suicide bombing that also killed up to 170 Afghanis and injured hundreds more.
He looked waxen and sounded distant, head bowed. It was not so much Sleepy Joe as Creepy Joe. “We will not forgive and we will not forget,” he said, struggling to focus on the autocue: “We will hunt you down and make you pay.” To which one was inclined to say: you and whose army? Biden was using the exact same language that George W Bush had used on the eve of the original Afghan invasion in 2001: “We will not forget; we will hunt you down; America will win the war.” It didn’t.
Then came Saturday’s drone strike on an Isis-K “planner”, a belated demonstration of US capability which only underlined the vacuity of the evacuation strategy. Does Mr Biden seriously intend to launch another military operation in Afghanistan? Is he extending the mission beyond August 31? In his speech, he also promised to rescue not only the Americans left behind but the thousands of Afghan allies too. Only a few days previously he had rejected calls from allies, including Britain, to prolong the evacuation to do precisely that.
President Biden has not only revived memories of the defeat and chaotic departure from Vietnam, he has rolled in the Iran hostage crisis of 1980. That destroyed the presidency of Jimmy Carter – though only eight American commandos died in that botched rescue mission, not 13. Bush and Carter were never great statesmen, but they tower now over the present incumbent. Mr Biden is not mad, nor is he obviously senile, but he is definitely out to lunch.
Unfortunately, for America, there is a long way to go before the next presidential election. Then again, the likely challenger in 2024 is the deplorable Donald Trump. He has been capitalising on Kabul, even though he signed the original withdrawal deal with the Taliban. What a choice before America: geriatric incompetent or a narcissistic sociopath.
Over here, our tousled premier ummed and aahed his way through interviews that condemned the killings but suggested that Britain’s hands were tied. “Did our best …Wasn’t our timetable”.
Johnson’s Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, admitted that British citizens and many compromised Afghanis will be left behind to an uncertain fate.
The revelation in The Times that UK embassy staff had left without destroying the names and pack-drill of many Afghan employees and contractors was deeply shocking – though somehow it just seemed par for the course.
It was confirmed last week that the US actually handed the Taliban a list of Afghan allies, US citizens and green card-holders to assist the evacuation. Evacuation to the next world, more like.
Remainers say that despite the big Brexit talk of “Global Britain” we have been exposed as America’s poodle, and it’s hard to disagree. Mind you, there’s no sign the European Union is wanting to get involved – it doesn’t have an army for a start.
The UN, too, has been deathly silent, as if it doesn’t want to upset the Taliban. Brussels is bracing itself for dealing with another refugee crisis – just don’t expect Angela Merkel’s successor to welcome the Afghans with open arms.
Britain will continue receiving refugees by the rubber boat-load. The UK Government’s offer to take 20,000 legal refugees from Afghanistan now looks perversely generous, if only because fewer than that will ever get out of this benighted land. The gates to Kabul airport have been welded shut.
The proliferation of al-Qaeda and Isis clones will keep our security services busy for years.
There has been much talk of these groups perhaps being suppressed by the new Taliban rulers as they seek to demonstrate who is in charge.
A civil war is always possible in a country where civil war is a way of life. But what unites all of those evil forces is a loathing and hatred of America and everything the West stands for: equality, human rights, democracy, women’s emancipation, secularism, tolerance. These all now sound like empty words – politician speak.
The West’s enemies scorn that this so-called liberal order has been enforced by bombing and invasions killing millions. And that is uncomfortably close to the truth.
We can’t ignore the appalling suffering that has been inflicted on developing countries by Western weapons these last two decades. Probably the worst condemnation of the era of “humanitarian” intervention is that it has invariably left the countries it touched under worse rulers than before – or by no rulers at all, as is the case in Iraq.
The US still has a military presence in Iraq, which is due to also be withdrawn. Presumably that will now be postponed pending a resolution to the Afghanistan emergency.
But the mystery is why, when no America had been killed in Afghanistan for 18 months, President Biden decided to pull out the peace-keeping there so precipitately, and with so little planning and thought.
Historians and policy analysts will be puzzling about this for decades. Why was the fortified Bagram air base not used? Mr Biden’s fixation on an arbitrary date – getting out before the 20th Anniversary of 9/11 – was a braindead deadline.
The Americans are not only deserting this darkened land, they are leaving behind a reported $85 billion of their arsenal. Some 75,000 vehicles, 200 planes, 600,000 small arms. More Black Hawk helicopters than you can shake a stick at. More importantly, America now lacks intelligence on the ground, without which destroying Isis-K is almost impossible, unless with Taliban support.
The US is now talking about it and the Taliban having “mutual interests”. The only interest the Taliban share with America is getting it out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible. The Taliban have learned the art of political spin, but nobody seriously believes that murderous Jihadists have become human rights lawyers over night.
Mr Biden will survive, no doubt, because the alternative in the White House is too awful to contemplate. But he now stands accused of the most egregious acts of military folly by an American Commander in Chief in at least half a century. It cost more American dead in one day than in the previous 10 years, not to mention the Afghan casualties.
Pity now those left living in Afghanistan. The Prophet Isaiah 9:9 also said: “Through the wrath of the Lord of Hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire.” They know all about that at Hamid Karzai International Airport.