It was the darkest day in US military history in over a decade: at least 13 Marines and one Navy medic slain alongside dozens of civilians in a terrible twin terror attack outside Kabul airport.
The nation must mourn these heroes even as it prays for the safety of the remaining 5,000 US forces and for the unknown thousands of US citizens, green-card holders and Afghan allies still desperately trying to get out of Afghanistan.
We welcome President Joe Biden’s vow to the ISIS-K murderers who took credit for the attack: “We will not forgive, we will not forget, we will hunt you down and make you pay . . . at a moment of our choosing.”
But dark hours and days still lie ahead, with more sick opportunist attacks likely and far more innocent lives still hanging in the balance. The nation should unite in resolve to get everyone we can out safely — though it’s now plain that some citizens will be left behind ahead on Aug. 31. We can only hope they can be evacuated by other means in coming weeks.
Hard questions remain, about Thursday and the path to it. Pressed on the question, the president said, “I bear responsibility for fundamentally all that’s happened to date.”
Those were words — along with his vow of justice for the terrorists, his recognition of our “sacred obligation . . . to families of those heroes” and his praise for those who fight on as “the best America has to offer” — we all needed to hear.
But some of his remarks rankle.
He still insists that his course was the only alternative to sending tens of thousands of US troops back to Afghanistan, to keep fighting endlessly. He will still not address the serious concerns around his execution of the withdrawal, instead repeating that any withdrawal would have been “messy” — a word that now rings especially cold and dismissive in light of the tragic scenes in Kabul.
Biden claims his military advisers, from the Joint Chiefs of Staff down to the commanders in the field, offered no other options: There was “complete unanimity.”
That seems impossible — and if so, damning of the entire chain of command.
He keeps saying his hands were tied by then-President Donald Trump’s agreement because “What America says matters.” What of America’s promises to hundreds of thousands of Afghan allies that we wouldn’t leave them behind? More: Biden has broken many other such Trump accords, nor did much of that four-page deal with the Taliban ever come to fruition.
But, again, those are questions for days and weeks ahead. For now, the overwhelming priority is to end this carnage. And on that, the final words of the president’s prepared remarks are spot on: “We have so much to do. It’s within our capacity to do it, we just have to remain steadfast.”
Indeed: Stay steadfast, we must.
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