While the most important aspect of what's happening in Afghanistan involves those whose lives are currently on the line, the political ramifications are going to become more of a topic of discussion as the days drag on. Biden's sudden decision to change his schedule and speak this afternoon on the crisis is obviously a response to political pressure. The fact that he's likely to simply blame Donald Trump speaks to that as well.
On that front, the first numbers are out regarding Biden's recent handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal. In a word, they are brutal.
#AfghanistanCrisis – 69.3% of Americans Disapprove of #Biden’s handling of #Afghanistan military operations – according to @trafalgar_group & @COSProject #Poll of likely ‘22 voters conducted 8/14-8/15 See Report: https://t.co/vwQzmJ8IOq pic.twitter.com/0qOieoMenl
— Robert C. Cahaly (@RobertCahaly) August 16, 2021
I have two main takeaways from this.
First, the overall numbers here are terrible for Biden and his party as they plow toward the next election. Biden is underwater with independents on this issue by a whopping 55 point margin. Total disapproval sits at 69.3%. And with shocking reports continuing to come out of Afghanistan, the perception of what has transpired is only going to get worse as time passes. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, I'm not of the mind to just assume everyone will forget about this by next year either.
My second takeaway is that partisanship is a heck of a drug. Somehow 23.1% of people, undoubtedly almost all Democrats, actually approve of what has happened in Afghanistan. Further, 10.7% “strongly approve,” which is just a mind-blowing proposition. What are they strongly approving of? The people falling to their deaths from the landing gear of C-17s? Or the Taliban executing people in the streets? Maybe it's the trapped Americans who can't get out now because the White House's plan wasn't a plan at all.
There is a middle-ground here that exists for most people. It is possible to support withdrawing from Afghanistan while at the same time believing that Joe Biden is an incompetent figure who completely botched things. So much of what we are finding out is inexcusable. Why were military forces removed before all civilian personnel and qualifying Afghanis were removed? Why were foreign contractors banned from supporting the Afghan military? Why was overwhelming airpower not used to push back on the Taliban advance? How did the intel community get so much wrong? Why were military leaders and the Biden administration seemingly lying about the capabilities of the Afghan forces?
In summary, while most Americans wanted out of the war in Afghanistan, it doesn't appear that most are fine with Biden completely bungling the situation beyond all recognition. The only justification that ever existed for Biden's presidency was that he was supposedly the “adult in the room.” He was supposed to have decades of experience that would prevent him from making terrible decisions. Sure, those of us that follow politics knew that was nonsense, but a lot of Americans bought into that narrative. Now, the mask is good and fully off. Couple that with the myriad domestic issues the president and his party are screwing up, and the politics of this for them look terrible going forward.