Bound by the Prior Administration

In Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal‘s Letters section, Mr Serpico had some thoughts regarding Navy Public Affairs Officer Admiral (ret) John Kirby’s, occupying a seat at Biden’s table as National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, words on the Biden Afghanistan so-called withdrawal.

John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman, said with a straight face that the Afghanistan withdrawal was executed with constraints previously set by the previous administration. In essence, it was former President Trump’s fault (“Joe Biden Isn’t Sorry About Afghanistan,” Review & Outlook, April 7).
You rarely see such an act of unashamed temerity. The Biden administration had seven months to make any changes it wanted to avoid the debacle that followed.
Are we supposed to believe that Mr Trump recommended giving up Bagram Air Base in the middle of the night? Did Mr Trump recommend that backward sequence for the removal of our Afghan partners, equipment, and personnel? Did Mr Trump recommend not telling our NATO partners that we were leaving?
Remember, it was President Biden who disregarded his internal military advice about leaving behind a residual force in Afghanistan. All of this hearkens to former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s warning that Mr Biden “has been wrong on every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

What Mr Serpico said.

To which I make a minor correction: “You rarely see such an act of unashamed lying.”

And to which I add:

John Kirby…said with a straight face that the Afghanistan withdrawal was executed with constraints previously set by the previous administration.

What constraints, exactly? What Trump had set up was a series of milestones that as the Taliban met each one, the next step of our drawdown would follow, but if a milestone was missed by the Taliban, the deal was off. And that set of milestones had a residual force, large enough to be effective, remaining.

Further, that deal was no treaty; it was a President’s Executive Agreement. Executive Agreements routinely are withdrawn—entirely legitimately in process and usually for good cause, as well—by subsequent Presidents. Biden was not bound by Trump’s EA; Biden easily could have altered or rescinded it, just as he did with all of the other Trumpian EAs and Executive Orders he rescinded in the last 10 days of January 2021. He chose to ignore this one.

Biden wasn’t bound by anything other than his panic-ridden wish to get out of Afghanistan, no matter the cost, in lives, in national honor, in messaging to enemies like Russia and the People’s Republic of China.

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