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Is hasty evacuation of Bagram air base Joe Biden’s biggest blunder in Afghanistan?

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Giving up the Bagram air base hastily in July appears to be the biggest blunder that US President Joe Biden is being accused of by his critics (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@CENTCOM)

Giving up the Bagram air base hastily in July appears to be the biggest blunder that US President Joe Biden is being accused of by his critics as the devastating suicide bombing at the Kabul airport adds another tragic chapter to the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“We evacuated Bagram Airfield, which was the dumbest thing anybody could have ever done. At what point do you believe abandoning one of the largest airfields in the world is a good thing knowing that you still needed to move Americans and our allies out of the country?”  says former U.S. intelligence officer Khusal Safi who worked in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2014.

The United States evacuation from Afghanistan has the makings of a human and political disaster—and it didn’t have to end this way, says Safi.

Speaking to News@Northeastern, Safi an Afghan native now working at Northeastern University in the US said: “That will be the original sin of this evacuation. Closing Bagram meant losing access to a secure airfield. This limited the number of air resources as they were moved to other areas outside Afghanistan and resulted in a delayed ability to move personnel. In addition, the evacuation needed to depart from the Kabul airport, a location the U.S. did not control, which resulted in a chaotic scramble of U.S. personnel and allies out of the country.”

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John Bolton, who was sacked by former president Donald Trump as National Security Adviser, is also a strong critic of the manner in which Joe Biden has gone about the withdrawal from Afghanistan. “It’s striking how Biden’s decision-making here so closely follows the Trump pattern,” Bolton told the New York Times. “Biden wanted out; he apparently didn’t want to be bothered with details that might have thwarted or slowed down executing his decision. So he left. Very Trumpian.”

NATO allies feel let down

European diplomats are disappointed over Biden claiming that he had consulted them about his withdrawal plans when in fact crucial decisions such as abruptly abandoning the Bagram Airfield in July, which crushed the morale of the Afghan army, were made unilaterally.

According to an article in Foreign Policy magazine European diplomats complain that after Biden declared “America is back” in the global system and that he was going to erase the legacy of the unilateralist Trump by reconnecting with allies, he didn’t do so on Afghanistan.

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American journalists have questioned Biden on whether Washington’s  NATO allies feel let down over the manner in which the withdrawal was carried out without taking them fully on board. However, he has chosen to deny any such strain in relations. 

Biden is seen to have bulldozed through with his withdrawal plan that was not adequately thought out or discussed with major U.S. allies such as Britain, France, and Germany. These NATO allies came in to support the US, paying a heavy cost in human lives and allocating huge funds for the 20-year war effort and clearly expected a better deal.