By John F Di Leo –
Reflections on the Biden/Harris team's vacations as Kabul burned…
In the weeks and years to come, books will be written on the American mishandling of Afghanistan under the Biden/Harris regime. Much of the focus will be on the political decisions of the Biden/Harris team, focused on the top brass of the military – a group of woefully misguided left-wingers in uniform who identify more with modern woke culture than with the Armed Services they were appointed to lead.
But with the news that alleged Secretary of State Antony Blinken was vacationing in the Hamptons when Kabul fell, many rightly began to consider just how many departments and agencies were, and should have been, involved in this operation. With a self-imposed August 31 deadline, should any of the top men and women in the executive branch have been taking vacation days? Would the private sector have allowed departmental directors and vice presidents any vacation time in a comparable private sector situation?
We were in Afghanistan for twenty years. That’s a huge history, which presented so many opportunities for interaction that it is likely, if not absolutely certain, that virtually every federal department had at least some involvement there… and therefore, had some loose ends to tie up in these final few weeks.
Let’s look at Secretary Blinken as an example. Typical Washington finger-pointers will assume that this was a military action (it was a war, right?), so that answers it: It must be the military’s problem, and no one else’s.
But that conclusion belies a misunderstanding of the size and scope of the federal government. In fact, the US government has grown so much, each cabinet secretary has far more agencies, bureaus, and responsibilities on his desk that we may imagine.
Treaties and other intergovernmental negotiations
At the heart of the Biden/Harris line on Afghanistan is the reminder that the Trump/Pence administration had negotiated a conditional, planned withdrawal for 2021, and they inherited that plan. That’s true, as far as it goes, but the Biden/Harris regime completely discarded the Trump/Pence agreement. In fact, the Biden/Harris regime decided to eliminate the conditions, and just start leaving, regardless of changes in circumstances.
As Secretary of State, Antony Blinken remained the point man for relations between the USA and the legitimate Afghan government, as well as for any talks with the terrorists that continued to threaten that government. He not only shouldn’t have been on vacation; he should have been joined at the hip to Biden, Harris, and the military brass in those final weeks.
Embassies and other State Department assets
The Department of State has at least some real estate in almost every country on earth. In many, we have huge embassies and an archipelago of consulates. In others, we have only a small office with a skeleton staff. There are very few where we have no government presence at all.
Due to the very peculiar situation in Afghanistan – a country in civil war, with a somewhat friendly and highly dependent government in place – our State Department had considerable personnel on the ground. This responsibility included a state of the art, billion dollar embassy, its American staff, its local staff and various contractors, and all their families.
This Afghan branch of the State Department was responsible for passport issuance and reissuance, for the processing of applications for travel visas, for applications for US citizenship or work and student visas… not only for all the obvious people listed above, related in some way to our mission there, but also for unrelated parties – regular civilians, educators, researchers, private businessmen, hotel or airline staff, and anyone else with American or allied citizenship who may need American help in getting out of there.
And this Afghan branch of the State Department was a key repository for such information as who America’s friends and enemies were among the Afghan people.
There are certainly other American departments with some of that involvement, too, but it’s all primarily in the State Department’s arena.
The evacuation could not be carried out without the diligent, 24/7 involvement of countless State Department staff.
As it became clear that we would need to provide safe passage to some other non-Americans besides those we naturally expected, the State Department needed to handle “new business” – the sudden flood of applications for refugee status from people with reason to believe they would be endangered by the Taliban once the Taliban took over.
The obvious among such targets are known or suspected “collaborators” with Americans – from people who informed on Taliban troop movements, to people who just did business with Americans, such as food truck vendors, barbers and restaurants.
But there are targets who are not so obvious, because they wouldn’t be targets anywhere else, but for islam.
We helped establish schools for girls. The Taliban does not approve of girls being educated. All students, teachers, and management of such schools knew they would be targeted by the Taliban; such people are pleading to be granted refugee status.
We helped talk Afghans into starting businesses and hiring women. There are women who worked as secretaries, as managers, as supervisors, in whatever budding entrepreneurial endeavors were possible in Afghanistan. They may have worked at the airport, or at restaurants, or at laundries. The Taliban does not approve of women having jobs of any kind. Such women, too, are pleading to be granted refugee status as well.
The State Department manages this process; they must have a barrage of decisions to make on a daily basis. They need their Secretary to be available for such a crisis, not partying in the Hamptons.
The United States Export Controls
This branch of the law is poorly named. The Export Controls constitute a body of protections, for purposes of national defense and foreign policy, regarding the sharing of technology, equipment, materials, funds, and information – and applies to imports, exports, and domestic transactions as well. They bear the name “Export Controls” because in theory, they are designed to keep from providing help to foreign enemies, but the name is misleading in providing an apparent limitation that doesn’t really exist.
The most relevant aspects of the Export Controls in the current discussion are our product and technology controls. Through its regulation of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and its related implementing rules, the United States Munitions List (USML), the State Department is responsible for any sharing of military hardware, software, and almost anything related to them.
If you’re an American manufacturer, supplying components for the manufacture of an Air Force fighter plane, or an Army transport helicopter, or a Navy aircraft carrier, you are required by law to keep tabs on every part you make, every blueprint you draw, every bill of materials you issue, every technical spec you file, every mold or die you design. You cannot allow access to anyone the Defense Logistics Agency didn’t authorize, or you go to jail, your company gets fined, and you’re usually banned from international trade of any kind for a period of years.
The State Department issues “export licenses” to allow the sharing of such specific products or information to very limited people in very limited transactions. That’s how carefully munitions must be controlled.
As the United States shut down base after base, leaving our military equipment behind, we essentially gifted the Taliban with whatever we hadn't or couldn't destroy. This number is almost unknowable to the public; reports have indicated some 70,000 vehicles, of which over half were military in nature (Humvees, tanks, etc.)… about half a million firearms, from pistols to automatic weapons… about 16,000 military grade night vision specs and ten times that many communication devices… we may have even left behind at least 150 complete, state-of-the-art aircraft, which, when they are flown toward American or allied troops, will look like friendly vehicles, providing the enemy with an element of surprise that our entire Export Controls regime is designed to deny them.
We don't know how many of these have been shipped back, and we don't know how many were fully destroyed. But we do know there's a great deal left behind. Let's say there are three broken-down Humvees, none of them drivable. In the hands of a good mechanic, which the Afghans probably don't have but can easily get, one or even two of those Humvees will be operable once the third is cannibalized for parts. So don't think that the fact that the Afghans "didn't take care of the equipment" protects us from this risk.
In 2007, ITT was fined $100 million for letting night vision technology get into the hands of the Red Chinese. As recently as this past June, 2021, the State Department prosecuted a conspiracy of five criminals who shipped hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of night vision goggles and thermal scopes to Russia (while sentencing hasn’t occurred yet, five year minimum sentences and millions of dollars in fines are expected).
And this month, the Biden/Harris regime abandoned 16,000 such devices to the terrorists of the Taliban, ISIS, and Al Qaeda.
The State Department should be directing every resource to the question of how to respond to this unprecedented security breach, undeniably the worst in the history of the nation. In sheer size, it renders the actions of the traitors who gave atomic bomb technology to the Soviets inconsequential by comparison.
Should Secretary Blinken have been on vacation in the month of August? Arguably, he shouldn’t even have been eating lunch away from his desk for the past three months.
In some ways, the same could be said for several other federal departments; the tentacles of our government reach into so many crevices of human endeavor, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that OMB, EPA, Interior, HUD, even HHS and Education probably all had some activities and/or personnel to clean up in this criminally disastrous drawdown and pullout.
But the leaders of the Armed Forces and the State Department certainly had the most personnel, the most projects to work on, the most information and materiel to somehow either clear out or destroy before it fell into the wrong hands.
And the idea that these cabinet secretaries would be on vacation as their world was crashing down only serves to highlight once again the absolute historical error of allowing this crowd anywhere near the levers of power in the America of today.
A flurry of resignations at the top should go without saying… as should an equal flurry of prosecutions, courts martial, and impeachments.
Copyright 2021 John F Di Leo
John F Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based writer, actor, transportation manager and trade compliance trainer. His columns have been found in Illinois Review since 2009.
John’s first book, The Tales of Little Pavel, is a collection of his semi-fictional Illinois Review stories about vote fraud. His next book, Evening Soup with Basement Joe, coming out in September, 2021, is a political satire about a parallel universe in which a doddering, inept president not entirely unlike the current one encounters the current events of 2021, and discusses them each evening with the young aide who serves him his soup each night before his “vitamin shot.”
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