by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
President Joe Biden was in office for three months when he addressed the nation from the White House Treaty Room last April, repeating a promise to bring troops home from Afghanistan.
“It’s time to end the forever war,” Biden said from the room where then-President George W. Bush had launched the invasion nearly 20 years earlier. Though two successive administrations had failed to end the mission, public opinion polls showed the public was supportive of Biden following through with former President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw.
Yet the chaos that ensued months later has called into question Biden’s handling of the operation, accelerating a downward spiral in popularity from which he has never recovered and prompting a 100-page investigation by Republicans in Congress.
By mid-August, rapid Taliban gains had threatened to turn the fulfillment of a popular campaign promise into a political liability for the president, whose approval rating began to slip underwater as his administration rushed to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies from the country while major cities fell to insurgent commanders.
And while Biden had promised an orderly exit, the reality of evacuating more than 120,000 people under emergency conditions quickly grew stark. Biden later argued some fallout was inevitable.
“There was no way to get out of Afghanistan, after 20 years, easily,” Biden said during a news conference several months later. “Not possible no matter when you did it. And I make no apologies for what I did.”
The perception that the administration was shifting the goalposts further dented public confidence, said Richard Fontaine, CEO of the Center for a New American Security and an adviser to the late Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain. …
… Fontaine said the chasm between what the public expected to happen and the outcome shook people’s faith.