To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.
--- George Orwell

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Day One In The Long War: Twenty Years After, 9/11 Feels Like Long Ago---And Only Yesterday


From NewsweekAs Citizen & Reporter: A 9/11 Memoir 

Tens of thousands of stunned, dust-covered office workers surged over the Brooklyn Bridge toward me, the devastated skyline at their backs. It was midmorning, September 11, 2001. The second World Trade Center tower had collapsed 20 minutes before; New York’s two tallest buildings reduced to rubble. I had heard on the radio that as many as six other planes had been hijacked. This later proved untrue. But at that moment, no one knew what might come next.
The impact of the second plane had rattled the windows of my Brooklyn Heights apartment so violently I had thought they might break. I’d rushed to my roof to see the towers first burn, then fall. The falling steel and shards of glass glinted in the glorious late-summer sun as a low volcanic roar swept across the water.
“You’re going the wrong way,” someone shouted. I kept walking, unable to say why. On the bridge were people of every race, ethnicity and social class, but they all wore the same look of terror. A wailing torrent of emergency vehicles set off dust swirls racing to the scene. The closer I got to Manhattan, the darker and smokier it became. As I walked closer, I had to pull my T shirt up over my mouth to breathe. I kept on going, as if the burning hole in the skyline was sucking me into itself.

Part of what was driving me was what Sebastian Junger has called an “amoral sense of awe” in the face of destruction, although after a few years as a young war correspondent in South Asia, I’d thought I’d gotten over this necessary journalistic evil. But as I passed police headquarters just over the bridge, I realized there was something else at work. New York is a big city, but for me, part of a family that has had four generations of New York City cops, it was a town, in distress as never before, and I was a townie. And so, for that day at least, “the ways of my people” eclipsed my reportorial instincts. I became a first responder, looking for some way, any way, to help.

At 10:45 that morning, City Hall Park was dusted with four inches of ash. Clouds of smoke and dust choked the streets off lower Broadway. A couple of loud “BA-BOOMS” shook the air—exploding ordnance in the arsenal that the U.S. Secret Service kept in its World Trade Center bunker, I learned later. As I stood dumbstruck across from the Woolworth Building on Broadway, a maniacal, motley-clad man in his 30s came out of the clouds. Pushing a cart loaded with bottles of drinking water, he looked like an extra from the film “Mad Max.” He had pulled a red T shirt over his face, completely obscuring it, and was wearing a pair of outsized aviator glasses. I asked him where the Red Cross was and where volunteers should report. “Just pick up some water and give it out,” he shouted, handing me some water bottles and a paper facemask. “God bless you, sir,” he said over his shoulder as he disappeared into the smoke. “God bless you.”

Then another man, this one in late middle age, staggered out of the clouds, wheezing badly. Wearing a smudged brown suit, he was carrying a preposterous, bulging brown leather briefcase. Grabbing him beneath the arms, I walked him two blocks up Broadway to an oxygen station. The man said he was a senior manager for FEMA. “I dove behind a truck,” he gasped. “That’s the only reason I’m alive. There were people behind me, but I don’t think they made it. There was seven feet of debris on the street.” Nearby, regrouping cops were so covered in dust you could hardly tell their uniforms were blue. Along with battered helmets, they were wearing the proverbial “thousand-yard stare.” They had been among the first at the scene, hit hard by cascading concrete and steel. One, who couldn’t have been more than 22, had been blinded by the debris.
I joined up with several nurses and doctors, some in scrubs, and headed over to a triage center at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. The side streets there were even darker, the air even more noxious. As we double-timed it, a Fire Department paramedic supervisor walking with us took a quick survey. “What skills do we have? Who can do what?” he asked our group. “Who’s a doctor? Nurse? RN? NP? Paramedic? EMT?” First Aid and CPR, I volunteered, sheepishly, skills learned long before as a Central Park ranger.
We passed the Federal Reserve Bank, home to a few billion dollars in U.S. gold reserves. There, the acrid fog was so thick we literally bumped into a phalanx of guards with assault weapons at the ready. The adrenaline level was very high all around.
The chief of the New York Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services briefed us at the terminal. Ours would be a standard triage with three zones: green for minor injuries, yellow for the next level and red for really serious cases. “There will be no freelancing,” the EMS commander ordered. “If you don’t know something, ask.” As we raced to assemble blood-pressure cuffs and blood-plasma trolleys, a couple of thirsty firemen used their emergency crowbars to try to open a couple of soda machines standing against a wall. They dented the machines but could not open them. Someone just brought down two of the world’s biggest buildings and somehow these soda machines were impregnable.

I was assigned to keep patients hydrated, to help wash out eyes and to keep track of names. “Got any Scotch?” asked one shaken elderly man when I handed him a cup of water. Almost everyone we treated spoke of ducking or diving into doorways to avoid debris and choking dust. Few had serious injuries; people either got away from the towers or they got killed. But the screams of the few in the red zone were chilling. Around 12:30 p.m., I heard two EMTs whispering to each other, not realizing I was in earshot. “We lost a lot of guys,” one said out of the side of his mouth. “They set up the command center right at the base of the South Tower and a lot of our guys got hit when the second plane went in.”
“How many we talking about?” his colleague asked, blank-faced. “How many unaccounted for?”
“Don’t know,” the first one said, grimacing. “But we’re talking whole companies, whole squads. Rescue One. Ladder Three. Ladder Four. A whole bunch of chiefs. Some companies, they can’t find anyone.”
In a corner, talking to a minister, a Russian woman in her early 20s was hysterical. Her younger sister, a very recent immigrant who had been working in the South Tower was missing. “I just feel like going there and digging, digging, digging with my bare hands to find her,” the woman sobbed, clawing the air.
Hardly anyone came in after 2:30. I decided to walk to another triage center, where I would make inquiries about the Russian woman’s younger sister. It was actually quite easy to get around. With a face mask and blue surgical gloves, no one stopped me.

Soon I was moving up the bottom of Broadway, passing Arturo Di Modica’s charging bull sculpture, which looked odd in the ashen desolation. Overhead, a few skyscrapers were on fire, burning debris sailing downward. Street-level was equally apocalyptic. Ambulances, fire trucks and police cars were scattered around, many crushed, without glass. A few of the fire trucks had their noses stuck in the debris with their backsides raised in the air. Some overturned cars were still burning, flames licking out of windshields and passenger windows. The sirens on some of the police and fire cars were still squealing, though in that weird sonic environment, the smoke muffled everything, as if it all was happening underwater.
Without the towers as markers, I was feeling lost. As it turned out, I was on the corner of Liberty Street and West Street: right at Ground Zero itself. There was only about 100 feet visibility. Occasionally the wind would shift. Then, eerily, like an iceberg breaking through the mist, the towers’ jagged facade would emerge. The break in the smoke would also allow a glimpse of rescuers on rubble, which was still burning in some spots. There was no sense of the scale of the devastation, which would only become apparent in coming days. Then the wind would shift again and the whiteout would resume.
Firemen were sitting on piles of wreckage, legs spread apart like uncomprehending 5-year-olds. Others had taken refuge in a darkened grocery store, sitting dazed and hollow-eyed in the dark. Rescue vehicles churned up muck as if it were snow in a blizzard. Huge padlocks had been placed on expensive, now evacuated, co-op buildings to secure them from looters. Around the marina at the World Financial Center, exhausted firemen sat in chairs usually reserved for cocktail-sipping bankers and brokers checking out the boats.
Finding it difficult to get to the other triage center, I made my way back to Ground Zero. More of the jagged facade of the collapsed towers was visible from this new angle, as was the burning hulk of 7 World Trade Center, flames roaring sideways out of that 50-story building before curling toward the blackened sky. The fire here now officially out of control, and fire supervisors were trying to clear the area before the now-inevitable collapse. “Get out of here! Go now!” one ordered.
Drifting over to a staging area along the West Side Highway, I found myself in a sea of firemen and rescue cops. Some were readying to go in, keeping the anxiety and stress at bay with jokes and verbal jabs, the air thick with New York accents. Others who had been there all day were cooling off, their overalls rolled down.
In the past seeing these kind of guys had prompted an awkward self-consciousness, my townie side being something that I often found difficult to acknowledge, especially in Manhattan’s snootier social and professional circles. But that day I felt nothing but pride both to be among them and to be one of them. I thought about the workings of fate: what if I had become a cop? By now I might be a captain or an inspector. I might be standing there formulating orders. Or I might be buried somewhere down the street, along with the first responders under my command.

On the far lip of the restricted zone, a young cop stood looking into the chaos. “I’m not supposed to be down here,” he explained, admitting he had left his assigned post further uptown. His dusty face was creased with sweat, and he stabbed his cell phone for what must have been the thousandth time that day. “But my brother’s a firemen and my mother just called me and said he might still be in there.”
In a bar on my way home, people were cringing and yelping as a TV news anchor announced that 7 World Trade Center, burning all day, was about to come down. Outside the street was on the edge of anarchy, as the building collapsed and its roaring cloud of smoke and dust chased panicking onlookers further uptown. “Everything will be back to normal in a couple of days, don’t worry,” a doorman at the Tribeca Grand Hotel reassured tourists, convincing no one.
With the Brooklyn Bridge now closed, and no trains running, I had to limp, sore-footed, across the Manhattan Bridge. The sunset sky was a beautiful aquamarine, streaked with red and purple. But the familiar skyline was now gouged, in a way that was almost human. It was as if somebody had had his nose ripped from his face or his teeth smashed from his mouth. A blood-orange sun sank into a black cloud of soot. Later that night, I looked into the mirror and saw a guy standing there with the same thousand-yard stare I’d seen all day long on the cops and firemen and medics I’d been with. I would wear that expression for more than a week.
* All photographs by William McGowan

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Tony Blinken, Afghanistan's Collapse And The Sorrows Of Beltway Credentialism

Wow! What a difference a year-and-a-half can make! Biden To Nominate Antony Blinken For Secretary Of StateNPR November 23, 2020. Blinken was going to “repair relationships between Washington and foreign governments and allies that have been strained under President Trump's 'America First" policy?! And serve as a confirmable alternative to Susan Rice, she of the Benghazi disaster in 2012?! And boost morale at the State Department that had been left "beleaguered" by the prior administration!? 

Considered while the biggest foreign policy debacle in American history continues to unfold in Afghanistan, the advance notices Blinken received from Beltway insiders and the media are as breathtakingly na├»ve as Blinken himself has proven himself to be. The fact that Blinken has not resigned yet is a tribute both to his own personal cluelessness--- and to the arrogance borne of the blind credentialism that put him in a place to do so much ruinous damage to the country---especially our international partners. Blinken needs to go. 


President-elect Joe Biden will nominate Antony Blinken for the coveted secretary of state post.


Blinken, 58, has extensive foreign policy experience, serving as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser under President Barack Obama. 


A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School, Blinken began his foreign policy career during the Clinton administration. He worked as Democratic staff director for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2002 to 2008, where he worked closely with Biden. He went on to serve as then-Vice President Biden's national security adviser.

Blinken is currently managing partner at WestExec Advisors, a firm he co-founded.


For Biden, choosing Blinken signals a return to a more traditional foreign policy that favors strong international relationships, NPR's Michele Kelemen says.

Biden's secretary of state pick, which will require Senate confirmation, was first reported by Bloomberg News and later confirmed by NPR.


…If confirmed, Blinken's early work, according to The Associated Press, would be focused heavily on repairing relationships between Washington and foreign governments and allies that have been strained under President Trump's "America First" policy, in which long-held alliances have frequently been challenged.


Blinken will also be tasked with boosting the beleaguered State Department, an agency that has experienced substantial turnover under Trump, with many longtime diplomats and career staffers leaving.

An Office of Inspector General (OIG) report from January found that, "Workforce management issues are pervasive, affecting programs and operations domestically and overseas and across functional areas and geographic regions."


A hiring freeze that was ordered by Trump in 2017 and that stretched until 2018 compounded the agency's ability to maintain staffing levels, the report went on to say.

"Employees told OIG that the hiring freeze contributed to excessive workloads, and the lack of transparency about the objectives intended to be achieved by the hiring freeze caused some to be concerned about losing their jobs," the report said.

Susan Rice, the former national security adviser under Obama, was rumored to have been on the short list for the top State Department job. However, by choosing Blinken, Biden avoids what was likely to have been a Senate battle over her nomination.

Rice would have faced criticism over the handling of the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012. Under pressure that year, Rice took herself out of consideration for the secretary of state's job after Clinton resigned the post. 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Tony Blinken, Elite Nepotism & The Cosmopolitan Delusions Forged In A Privileged Expat Youth


Tony Blinken was practically Joe Biden’s “alter ego,” wrote the Financial Times in early 2020, describing his central role in what has come to be known as America’s “return” to the world stage. The FT profile was as revelatory of Blinken’s cosmopolitan mindset, which would come a cropper in Kabul, as it was just dead wrong in its assessments of Blinken’s alleged strengths as a diplomat and leader. “The foreign affairs veteran is son and nephew of US ambassadors to European capitals,” the FT writes, “and his return to the corridors of power comes as the US tries to recover from the battering it has taken on the world stage during 4 years of Donald Trump.” 

Biden’s ‘alter ego’ Antony Blinken will try to rebuild alliances, by Demetri Sevastopulo, November 23, 2020: 

When Joe Biden enters office in January, his closest foreign policy adviser will be a guitar- playing Beatles fanatic who first started promoting American values as a high school student in Paris during the cold war. 

On Monday, the president-elect said he had chosen Antony Blinken as secretary of state, elevating a three-decade fixture in Democratic foreign policy circles, who first worked with Mr Biden in the Senate. 

A former speech writer for President Bill Clinton, Mr Blinken was national security adviser to Mr Biden when he was vice-president, before becoming deputy national security adviser to Barack Obama and deputy secretary of state. 

Mr Blinken’s return to the corridors of power will come as the US tries to recover from the battering it has taken on the world stage during four years of Donald Trump’s international isolationism

Although some of the challenges will be familiar to Mr Blinken, he will also face new dilemmas such as dealing with an even more assertive China. 

Robert Malley, the head of International Crisis Group who was Mr Blinken’s high-school classmate, said the Washington veteran had the perfect background to restore American credibility. 

In addition to coming from a family with foreign policy pedigree — his father served as ambassador to Hungary and his uncle to Belgium — allies say he can put himself in the shoes of others because of his experience overseas. 

“Tony was an American in Paris — and both terms are key. He was very conscious of being an American and he believed in US values. But he also understood how US policy affects the rest of the world because he lived overseas and witnessed how others view America,” Mr Malley said. 

“At that time, the US was not particularly popular in Europe, and in France in particular. Tony navigated those two universes.” 

In a recent Intelligence Matters podcast, Mr Blinken said the US had to rebuild alliances to tackle the “democratic recession” enabled by Mr Trump that let “autocracies from Russia to China . . . exploit our difficulties”. 

Mr Blinken is a pragmatic realist who believes in US power but understands its limits. He will also have the most valuable currency in Washington — the ear of the president. He is so close to Mr Biden that some see him as his “alter ego”. 

Nick Burns, the former number three state department official who has known Mr Blinken since the Clinton administration, said his network of friends around the world is coupled with an incredible range of experience from his time in the Senate, state department, and White House. 

“He was at the table for all of the important meetings in the Obama administration for eight years and has unique insight into the full range of national security issues,” said Mr Burns. 

A soccer-playing 58-year-old, who has uploaded two of his songs on Spotify and sometimes has a guitar in the background during video calls, is widely liked for his unassuming manner and inclusive approach. 

In his high-school yearbook, the page with his photograph is inscribed with the Pink Floyd lyrics, “just another brick in the wall”, hinting at his willingness to eschew the traditional rigid hierarchy of Washington. 

A former top state department official said he was popular because he valued opinions regardless of how junior or senior the person was, and was confident enough to credit others. “It’s never about him or his ego.” 

But some say his inclusive style meant his core beliefs were sometimes hard to ascertain. “I don’t have a good read on his foreign policy thinking because he did not impose himself,” says a former Biden Senate aide. 

One former Obama administration official said he also had a tendency to hold too many meetings and punt decisions. “As the big dog, will he drive towards decisions or needle issues to death?” they asked. 

Defenders said he simply wanted to avoid rushing into bad decisions. The former Senate aide added that he was good at ending meetings on time. “When someone tried to extend a meeting with extraneous comments, he would give them a yellow card. If you did it again . . . it was a red card.” 

While some found his views opaque, others stress that he has long been clear about the importance of promoting democracy and human rights in American foreign policy. 

He advocated military action against Syria after the Assad regime used chemical weapons in 2013 — a path that Mr Obama did not follow — and applauded Mr Trump for striking Syria after the regime used sarin gas on citizens in 2017. 

Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia, said Mr Blinken and other Democrats created a group called the “Phoenix Initiative” to debate whether the party needed a more robust national security approach after John Kerry lost to George W Bush in the 2004 election. 

He said that when the group held debates, Mr Blinken was also a strong proponent of using US power for good and advocating for human rights. “I was very struck that he was passionate about that,” he said. 

Philip Gordon, a former Obama administration official, said that view was informed by his family history. His Polish-born stepfather Samuel Pisar survived Auschwitz and eventually wound up in the US, where he became a successful international lawyer, while other relatives entered the US as refugees. 

“That has left him believing that the US can and should do good in the world,” said Mr Gordon. “But I would pair that with the notion that he is a real pragmatist who also understands the limits of American power. He is anything but an ideologue.” 

The other former Obama official said Mr Blinken would probably take a tougher stance on human rights than the Obama White House. “Tony would be visibly tougher on Russia and more receptive to the idea of ideological competition with China, cranking up a few notches the democracy promotion and human rights dimension of foreign policy.” 

Mr McFaul said Mr Blinken was also more decisive than some believe. When he argued that Mr Biden should meet Russian opposition figures after a meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in 2011, “it took Tony about three seconds to say that is a really good idea”, in contrast to a much harder sell with the Obama team in 2009. 

Mr Blinken’s views on alliances and promoting democratic values fit with a growing view in Washington that the US needs to work more closely with allies to gain greater leverage to tackle China. 

One former European official, who has worked with Mr Blinken, said the fluent French speaker would be well received in Europe and would help repair the damage done over the past four years. But he said he would do so in a more low-key and more collegiate way than some predecessors. 

“He’s not a man to make the front page,” he said. “He’s not Henry Kissinger, in a good and bad way.” 



Friday, August 27, 2021

Kabul Catastrophe Is What Happens When Dems Rig An Election and The Media Pretends Not To Notice That Its Candidate Is Senile

At yesterday’s White House press conference, Biden buried his head in his hands, looked close to tears and was completely unable to make whatever his point was, writes David Marcus in the Canadian Post-Millennial“There has never been an image of an American president that projects such abject weakness,” Marcus notes. "We do not have a president. We have a crumbling old man. OK. Now what?”


After wrapping up his rambling remarks about a terrorist attack that killed US Marines on Thursday, President Biden moved on to questions. He informed the American people, whom he was addressing, that he had been "instructed" as to who should get the first question.


Who exactly was instructing the President of the United States? What other instructions does he obey? Did the American people elect a president? Or is Joe Biden just an old, sleepy eyed talking head? On Thursday, Americans got our answer.


The last question taken by Biden, we can only assume as a result of instruction, was granted to Fox News' Peter Doocy. Doocy asked Biden if he bears responsibility for the American lives lost in the terror attack. The President proceeded to engage in a bizarre back and forth with the reporter. 


Then Biden buried his head in his hands, he looked close to tears, completely unable to make whatever his point was. There has never been an image of an American president that projects such abject weakness.


The United States effectively has no president. That must be distinctly understood at this point. He admitted this. Asked by Phillip Wegmann, White House correspondent for Real Clear Politics, if he had made the call to close American airbases before evacuation occurred, Biden said that it was what his military advisers told him to do. 


The only decision Biden makes these days is what flavor ice cream he wants. Maybe.

Sen. Josh Hawley has called on Biden to resign in the wake of his administration's Afghan withdrawal disaster. It's a reasonable call, but also pointless. Joe Biden no more leads the nation than George Washington or Abe Lincoln do. He's a presidential portrait painted before its time. Nothing more.


But the country does need resignations. Not Biden's but resignations of cabinet secretaries, the well-credentialed fools who truly authored the administration's idiocy. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken must resign. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin must resign. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan must resign. But that's not enough.


Once they resign, moderate, serious minded Democrat senators must join Republicans in only confirming replacements that will reverse the horrendous foreign and national defense policies that have humiliated America on the world stage. Biden is president for three more years, Congress must act to ensure that the people instructing him are competent.


This is an emergency, and it is one we have never experienced before. The image of Joe Biden bowing his head in quiet, sad frustration is alarming. If there is a silver lining to this sad display it is that maybe Congress will act to take back control of our foreign policy. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has called for the House to come back in session to get control of this situation. Of course, he is correct.


The Biden presidency is over, but it never really began. Clearly his cabinet is in control. Clearly they have been in control since day one. That cabinet decided to trust the Taliban to protect Americans. They are relying on terrorists who blow themselves up to act in their own self-interest. It is a macabre comedy. Those who hold Biden's strings must go, and they must go now.


All of this is much bigger than Afghanistan, as big as this humiliation is. This is the national security apparatus that is responsible for policies on Iran, North Korea, China, Ukraine, Yemen, everywhere. They blatantly cannot be trusted to protect American interests. That's not a hypothetical anymore. It's a tragedy.


Joe Biden, the 46th president, elected to bring back norms is irrelevant. Utterly, completely irrelevant. But we have him for three more years anyway. With loud, piercing, clarion calls we must demand the removal of his handlers, let congress replace them, and let us do better in the election of 2024. We do not have a president. We have a crumbling old man. OK. Now what?

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Brown Lives Don’t Matter, At Least In The Kabul Evacuation Plan Tony Blinken Has Thrown Together


NYT: U.S. Says 1,500 Americans Remain in Afghanistan as Evacuation Enters Final Days

Amazing what a difference a year can make, at least if there’s a Democrat in power. Alternative hedline could be: Annals of Systemic Racism We Just Can’t Talk About. As the Times put it: “The State Department is frantically trying to track down U.S. citizens. Tens of thousands of Afghan allies will all but certainly be left behind.”

WASHINGTON — At least 1,500 American citizens remain in Afghanistan with just days left before the scheduled U.S. withdrawal from the country, but officials on Wednesday acknowledged the reality that tens of thousands of Afghan allies and others at high risk of Taliban reprisals would be left behind.

The sound of gunfire, and clouds of tear gas and black smoke, filled the air around the international airport in Kabul, the capital, as thousands of Afghans massed at the gates on Wednesday, desperate to escape ahead of the American military’s final departure on Aug. 31, after 20 years of war.

As military and government charter flights took off every 45 minutes as part of an airlift, Biden administration officials said they had evacuated about 82,300 people since Aug. 14, the day before Kabul fell to the Taliban. Around 4,500 of them were American citizens, with 500 more expected to depart soon.

But Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said the government was trying to track down around 1,000 American citizens still believed to be in Afghanistan who had not responded to a frantic flurry of emails, phone calls or other messages offering to evacuate them.

Washington Post: On Afghanistan, Biden Sounds All Too Much Like 'Baghdad Bob'

Al Qaeda is more than a remnant in Afghanistan, writes Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen, highlighting the disconnection from reality that Joe Biden seems to share with Saddam Hussein’s Minister of Media & Foreign Affairs Muhammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, aka “Baghdad Bob.” In fact Al Qaeda was pivotal in the Taliban’s blitz. The result is that “Biden has handed the global jihadist movement a new radical Islamic emirate in Afghanistan to replace it.”


Remember “Baghdad Bob,” the Iraqi information minister who, as U.S. forces entered the capital, insisted that there were no Americans in Baghdad? That’s what President Biden is beginning to sound like with his delusional insistence that no Americans were having trouble getting to the Kabul airport, no allies were calling into question the United States’ credibility, and that the United States had no interest in Afghanistan because al-Qaeda was “gone.”


Really? If that last claim were true, then how did the Afghan military manage to kill al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, Abu Muhsin al-Masri, in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province last October? Al-Masri was on theFBI’s most wanted list for conspiracy to kill Americans. If al-Qaeda poses no threat to the United States in Afghanistan, as Biden claims, what was a senior al-Qaeda leader focused on external operations doing there? And why is Sirajuddin Haqqani, an al-Qaeda-linked U.S.-designated terrorist with a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture, serving as the Taliban’s second-in-command? His network was recently placed in charge of security in Kabul. The fact is al-Qaeda is not only present in Afghanistan, but deeply embedded within the Taliban. According to the New Yorker’s Robin Wright, there are actually more al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan now than there were before 9/11, and al-Qaeda “was pivotal in the Taliban’s sweep across Afghanistan.”


Yet on Fox News Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken dismissed al-Qaeda’s Afghan presence as nothing more than “remnants” posing no serious danger to the homeland. It’s not the first time he’s minimized a terrorist threat, only to be proved disastrously wrong. In December 2011, there were only about 700 Islamic State “remnants” in Iraq when Biden presided over the disastrous U.S. withdrawal there — but by 2014, a CIA analysis found that the Islamic State had grown to as many as 31,500 fighters. Yet Blinken — who was then serving as deputy national security adviser — continued to underestimate the danger these terrorists posed. In an August 2014 interview, he insisted that the Islamic State’s “focus is not on attacking the U.S. homeland or attacking our interests here in the United States or abroad. It’s focused intently on trying to create a caliphate now in Iraq.”


Soon after he spoke those words, the Islamic State and those inspired by it launched a wave of attacks on the West — including January 2015 attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices and a Jewish deli in Paris; November 2015 attacks on a night club, soccer stadium and restaurants in Paris that killed 130 people; March 2016 bombings of the Brussels airport and subway station; and a July 2016 attack in Nice in which an Islamic State terrorist drove a truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day, killing 84 people. According to CNN, by July 2016, the Islamic State had carried out 143 attacks in 29 countries that killed more than 2,000 people. It was only after the group began to attack the West that the Obama administration finally sent U.S. forces back to Iraq to deal with the debacle it created.


Now, Biden and Blinken are underestimating the terrorist threat once again. But this time, the disaster they created in Afghanistan will be far more difficult to clean up. In Iraq, we left behind a friendly government and bases to which U.S. forces could return to from which to take on the terrorists. In Afghanistan, the Taliban is in full control, and we have no bases to which we can return when the terrorist danger inevitably reemerges.


Other terrorist hotspots — such as Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Somalia — have coastlines that allow us to project power from the sea. But Afghanistan is a landlocked country, surrounded by hostile states. The only viable routes in are over either Iranian or Pakistani airspace. We face not only a challenge of distance, but of topography — as the forbidding Hindu Kush mountains provide the perfect cover for terrorists. “We’re talking about the problem of finding terrorist needles in 15,000-foot haystacks, which was hard to do even when we had troops in country,” explains Fred Kagan, director of the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project. Even if we somehow manage to obtain intelligence on an al-Qaeda target and overflight permission, we’ll have to hope and pray that the target will still be there by the time our planes take off from bases in the Persian Gulf or a distant aircraft carrier. And without nearby bases, we have limited capability to extract American pilots if a mission goes wrong.


In other words, Biden’s claim that we have an “over the horizon” capability to combat an al-Qaeda resurgence is a joke. It took more than seven years for the United States to drive the Islamic State from the caliphate Biden handed them in 2011. Now, Biden has handed the global jihadist movement a new radical Islamic emirate in Afghanistan to replace it.


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Biden Team Projects An Equanimity That Is ‘The Definition Of Gaslighting,’ says Politico


As chaos unfolds at Kabul airport, Team Biden projects calm, writes Politico, while the President and his minions employ rhetoric completely disconnected from conditions on the ground.  

Tens of thousands of Afghans awaiting U.S. visas and thousands of American citizens are still stuck in Kabul, unable to find safe passage through frantic crowds, Taliban checkpoints and Afghan guards stationed outside the airport. 

Gunfire erupted outside of the north gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport on Monday, killing a number of Afghan security forces. American officials have repeatedly had to close the gates for extended periods, leading guards to turn away even U.S. passport holders.

Multiple sources point to deteriorating conditions inside the airport, including lack of power and sanitation. And tension has emerged between American troops on the ground and State Department officials trying to extract U.S. citizens and Afghan allies. 

Meanwhile, the West Wing is looking increasingly disconnected from reality as the Biden White House strives to project a sense of calm competence — even as the Taliban tighten their grip on Afghanistan. 

“We are actually overperforming in terms of the evacuation numbers,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Monday of the massive evacuation effort underway at Kabul airport to extract thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghan allies from the city. 

“If you look at what we're doing now and taking — evacuating thousands of people every day, it really has been a tremendous piece of work,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. 

While the evacuation has significantly ramped up in recent days, the reality on the ground belies the narrative that the situation is under control. The scenes around Kabul airport have been marked by violence, disorganization, bureaucratic in-fighting and delays, according to video and text exchanges viewed by POLITICO. 

The result is an administration that appears increasingly out of touch, as reports from Kabul continue to reflect a chaotic evacuation. 

“I don’t think the president’s rhetoric matches the conditions on the ground,” said Jenna Ben-Yehuda, a 12-year veteran of the Bush and Obama State Department and president of the Truman Center, which is coordinating with other groups to try to evacuate Afghan allies.

“They keep saying this was inevitable, but there absolutely was a way to avoid this — if that’s not the definition of gaslighting I don’t what is,” said Chris Purdy, the project manager of the Veterans for American Ideals program at Human Rights First, which has been part of the coalition to help evacuate people from Afghanistan.