Commentary

Robert Gates, right, is pictured with then-Vice President Joe Biden at a change-of-command ceremony in Baghdad, Iraq in September of 2010. Despite the two having served together on the same team during the Obama administration, the former US Defense Secretary had harsh criticism during a recent television interview regarding the Biden administration's badly mishandled Afghanistan withdrawal.

Robert Gates, right, is pictured with then-Vice President Joe Biden at a change-of-command ceremony in Baghdad, Iraq in September of 2010. Despite the two having served together on the same team during the Obama administration, the former US Defense Secretary had harsh criticism during a recent television interview regarding the Biden administration’s badly mishandled Afghanistan withdrawal. (Jim Watson- pool / Getty Images)

 By Abby Liebing  October 18, 2021 at 4:53pm

With many considering President Biden as just “Obama 2.0,” the odds of President Biden being criticized by an old Obama official seem about as likely as getting eaten by a polar bear.

But Robert Gates, who ran the Pentagon under President Obama and President George W. Bush, told CBS News in a “60 Minutes” interview that he was sick over the Afghanistan withdrawal.

“It was really tough. For a few days there, I actually wasn’t feeling very well. And I realized it was because of what was happening in Kabul,” Gates said.

But Gates went further to clarify that, even though any withdrawal is messy, Biden’s way of doing it was certainly one of the worst of the options available.

“And — and I guess the other — the other feeling that I had was that it probably did not need to have turned out that way,” Gates said.

Biden’s initial optimism about the withdrawal was astounding. The Soviet Union and even Alexander the Great had issues withdrawing from Afghanistan, so that should have cued Biden to the fact that it would be no walk in the park to get American troops out.

“Once President Biden reaffirmed that there was going to be a firm deadline date, that’s the point at which I think they should have begun bringing those people out. You’d have to be pretty naïve not to assume things were gonna go downhill once that withdrawal was complete,” Gates said.

While Gates did also blame former President Donald Trump for some of the issues with the withdrawal, there is no excuse for Biden’s lack of foresight and planning.

“Certainly the military considers withdrawal the most dangerous part of an operation. But … they really had a lot of time to plan, beginning with the deal that President Trump cut with the Taliban. So that was in February of 2020,” Gates said.

Did Biden ruin the Afghanistan withdrawal?

Such criticism from Gates, who not only has worked in national security for decades but is also cozy with the Democrats, is a surprising betrayal to the establishment.

However, Gates was not alone in his criticism of Biden’s deadly naivete. The blundering withdrawal drew heavy fire from other Democrats as well. And it’s never a good sign to be so heavily criticized from your own side of the aisle, especially if you were practically hailed as the Christ after being elected over Trump.

Senator Bob Mendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released a statement filled with criticism of the whole debacle.

“In implementing this flawed plan, I am disappointed that the Biden administration clearly did not accurately assess the implications of a rapid U.S. withdrawal,” Mendez said.

However, Democrat critics have been careful to not wholly lay the blame at Biden’s feet for the withdrawal disaster. They made sure to mention that Trump was also at fault.

“The wholly inadequate agreement the Trump administration made with the Taliban did not get commitments for the Taliban to break ties with Al Qaeda, nor did it account for the day after our withdrawal,” Mendez said.

And the Washington Post made sure to heap the majority of the blame on Trump’s head in an op-ed headlined, “Trump & Co. engineered the pullout from Afghanistan. Now they criticize it.

And yet, it was Biden, not Trump who was actually responsible for the withdrawal. That is what it means to be the president. The buck stops with you, Biden.

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