Afghanistan collapse raises questions about Biden's foreign policy prowess

President Biden to speak on Afghanistan after Taliban takes over Kabul

Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy reports on the Biden administration’s reaction to the fall of Afghanistan.

As he battled a large group of mostly younger and more progressive rivals for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, candidate Joe Biden spotlighted his years of foreign policy experience, traveling the globe and meeting with world leaders as a longtime senator and Foreign Relations Committee chair and later as vice president.

“We live in the most dangerous moment in a generation,” the narrator in a Biden campaign commercial running in Iowa in late 2019 said. 

“This is a moment that requires strong, steady, stable leadership. We need someone tested, and trusted around the world. This is a moment for Joe Biden – a president with the experience to lead,” the narrator emphasized.

After winning the Democratic nomination, Biden targeted then-President Trump during last summer and autumn’s general election over foreign policy.

“We find ourselves in a position where we’re more isolated in the world than we’ve ever been,” Biden argued on the campaign trail.

And as he announced some top members of his national security team, president-elect Biden highlighted soon after winning the November 2020 election that “America is back. Ready to lead the world, not retreat from it. Once again, sit at the head of the table. Ready to confront our adversaries, and not reject our allies, ready to stand up for our values.”

But the image of Biden as a foreign policy sage appears to be taking a major hit, as pictures of the Taliban quickly taking over Afghanistan and of American troops hastily evacuating U.S. diplomats, citizens and allies from Kabul dominated media coverage the past couple of days.

Making matters worse, what the president – just a month ago – pledged wouldn’t happen, has happened.

A U.S. Chinook helicopter flies near the U.S. Embassy, left, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. Helicopters are landing at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul as diplomatic vehicles leave the compound amid the Taliban advanced on the Afghan capital. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

“There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of a embassy in the, of the United States from Afghanistan,” Biden said on July 8 when asked by reporters about parallels between the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the evacuation of remaining U.S. forces, officials and allies from Saigon during the fall of South Vietnam in 1975.

Biden inherited a precarious position in Afghanistan as he succeeded Trump in the White House. Biden’s predecessor struck a deal with the Taliban in February of last year that called for all U.S. troops to depart Afghanistan by May 2021. Trump, during his watch, reduced U.S. forces to their lowest level in Afghanistan in two decades. And last year the Afghan government released thousands of Taliban prisoners, many of whom likely once again took up arms against the U.S.-backed forces.

But rather than reversing the Trump Afghanistan roadmap – as he did with other Trump policies – the president carried out the deal that was struck last year, overruling the opinions of his top military commanders.

This weekend, Biden once again defended the troop withdrawal decision, saying that the U.S. had accomplished its mission in the country – by killing Osama bin Laden and driving al-Qaida underground – and had nothing to gain by keeping troops in Afghanistan.

“One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country,” the president emphasized in his Saturday statement. “An endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me.”

American forces invaded Afghanistan weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, under President George W. Bush. His successor, President Obama, continued and dramatically expanded the size of U.S. troops in the country before beginning a reduction in the size of the mission. 

Numerous polls conducted earlier this year indicated that a plurality to a majority of Americans favored the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

But the collapse of the Afghan forces occurred much faster than Washington predicted, forcing Biden to rush U.S. troops back to Kabul to guard the airport and oversee the evacuations.

“President Biden has continuously represented himself as a foreign policy guru throughout the primaries and general election. What has taken place since his decision to withdraw American combat troops from Afghanistan represents a significant failure of American national security and intelligence planning and rests squarely on his shoulders,” veteran political scientist Wayne Lesperance told Fox News.

“Twenty years of blood and treasure has been wiped out by the Taliban in a matter of weeks. Perhaps this was an unavoidable outcome. But, it happens on Biden’s watch, and he has thus far provided no real response to what we are all witnessing in Afghanistan. His foreign policy credibility is in tatters as a result,” Lesperance emphasized.

A Fox News national poll conducted in April and a Quinnipiac University national survey conducted a couple of weeks ago indicated that Americans were divided on how Biden was handling the nation’s foreign policy. The president had 42% approval and 41% disapproval in the Fox News poll and stood at 42%-44% in the more recent Quinnipiac survey.

While public opinion to this point supported the withdrawal, it could quickly change if the lightning-fast Taliban takeover of the country is followed by pictures of the repressive regime beating women and ousting girls from classrooms. And concerns about a resurgence of al-Qaida in Afghanistan, and the use of the country as a launching pad for terrorist attacks, could quickly change public perceptions.

Lesperance pointed to the possibility that “in the coming weeks we will see images of what life under Taliban rule will be for Afghan citizens – especially women and young girls. And while the last four presidents all have a hand in the current crisis in the country, the buck will stop with the Biden administration and its failure to anticipate the inability for the Afghan government and military to stop the Taliban.”

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