JACKIE CUSHMAN: The high price of politics over policy

Less than two months ago, President Joe Biden told the American people that the Taliban would not be able to rapidly take over Afghanistan once we pulled out our troops. Our exit was to be uneventful — but a lot has happened since then.

The Taliban did take over Afghanistan, so fast that Biden was challenged to keep up with the rapid change of status in the country. So far, he has showed up late to his news conferences appearing confused, making untrue statements and refusing to take questions from reporters.

After complaining that then-President Donald Trump spent too much time watching TV, Biden should follow his predecessor’s lead by watching a bit more TV. That way, he might find out what is happening around the world. He would see throngs of desperate people rushing to get aboard a plane — any plane, even moving ones — at the airport.

He would hear from U.S. citizens trapped in Afghanistan who were unable to reach the airport and were frightened for their lives. It’s horrific what is happening, and our president bears the responsibility.

Having moved quickly to take over the country, the Taliban are now calling the shots. They are giving Biden directives that he plans to follow — no matter who gets left behind.

I’ve seen email from an Afghan interpreter who worked with a family friend and now cannot get himself or his family out of Afghanistan. He is pleading and praying for help, afraid they will be hunted down and killed. In response, our government is processing their paperwork, while I am praying for their safety.

This Tuesday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, “We are not in favor of allowing Afghans to leave … They (the Americans) have the opportunity, they have all the resources, they can take all the people that belong to them, but we are not going to allow Afghans to leave, and we will not extend the deadline.”

Mujahid also made clear who is in charge on the ground. “The way to the airport has been closed now. Afghans are not allowed to go there now, foreigners are allowed to go but we have stopped Afghan nationals to go because the crowd is more, there is danger that people will lose their lives, there might be a stampede.” Sounds like a threat to me.

Clearly the Taliban are in charge in Afghanistan.

On Monday, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen made it clear that the Taliban were reinforcing the Aug. 31 deadline for Americans to get out.

“It’s a red line,” he said. “President Biden announced that on 31 August they would withdraw all their military forces … If the U.S. or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations, the answer is no. Or there would be consequences.”

Meanwhile, back at home, Biden’s approval ratings dropped this weekend.

According to a USA Today/ Suffolk University Poll, taken last weekend, Biden’s job approval rating is 41%, with 55% disapproving. This is the first time his approval rating has dropped below 50%.

A vast majority of Democrats (87%) say Biden is doing a good job, while his approval among Independents has cratered to 32%. Biden gets the best score for pandemic performance (50%) followed by economy (39%), with only 26% approving of his handling of our withdrawal from Afghanistan.

David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, laid the results out clearly. “President Biden’s overall approval has taken a turn for the worse due to his awful job performance rating on Afghanistan. His approval on immigration and the economy are also upside down. The only issue keeping him remotely in the game is his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, where he is barely at 50%.”

The debacle in Afghanistan will be long-lasting. We have abandoned our citizens, emboldened our enemies, turned our back on the thousands of Afghan interpreters who helped us and have left our allies in the lurch.

Biden may have achieved what he wanted, to say that our troops were out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021 — the 20-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States — but this political gain is at the cost of sound policy. Our troops might be coming home, but we are leaving citizens, friends and allies behind. The high price of politics over policy. A sorry state indeed.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is an author and nationally syndicated columnist for Creators Syndicate.