Afghanistan: Did the Deep State Strike Out, or is it Striking Back?

Kabul international Airport. Photo by Tabin112. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Kabul international Airport. Photo by Tabin112. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are due the thanks of a grateful nation.

The obvious reason: Trump negotiated an agreement to end 20 years of war in Afghanistan, and got things rolling on fulfilling that agreement’s terms. Biden finished the job, albeit belatedly.

Slightly less obvious, but at least as important: Trump and Biden finally stood up to the “Deep State” we’ve heard so much about in recent years.

That Deep State consists of a permanent, long-term bureaucracy, both military¬† (careerist officers who need long wars to put stars on their collars before they retire into other branches of government or cushy positions with “defense” contractors) and civilian (careerist employees in the State Department, CIA, etc., who consider themselves entitled to administer an eternal global empire, actual US interests be damned).

During his single term, Trump sometimes feinted in the right direction before crumbling and doing as his Deep State masters ordered (his supporters always blamed them, not him). But near the end of his time in office, he finally made a stand. And Biden followed through on that stand.

The “Saigon 1975” re-enactment in Kabul is the result of Deep State failure and/or Deep State tantrum, not of presidential dedication to the task of ending the war.

After nearly 60 years of unquestioning obedience from presidents (the last to defy them on this scale died in Dallas in 1963, probably not coincidentally), the ghouls at the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom assumed they’d be able to bully either Trump or Biden into reversing the decision to withdraw. It’s possible that the Kabul fiasco is merely a consequence of foot-dragging — not using the ample time they were given to prepare for the withdrawal because they didn’t expect it to actually happen.

The other possibility amounts to “never let a crisis go to waste.” If we’re not going to get our way, let’s at least make the withdrawal as ugly, tragic, and politically damaging as possible so that future presidents go back to giving us our way rather than risk similar embarrassments.

It’s one, the other, or both. What it’s not is presidential failure.

Eight months to the day after Pearl Harbor, the US Navy landed 16,000 Marines on Guadalcanal, in the middle of a hostile ocean.

In five months in 1990-91, the US armed forces moved half a million troops to the Middle East for Desert Storm.

The claim that 13,000 troops, plus embassy and Afghan support personnel, couldn’t be evacuated from Afghanistan in 18 months without the operation devolving into a deadly circus doesn’t pass the smell test. It didn’t happen because those ordered to make it happen didn’t want it to happen.

For that failure and/or betrayal, Biden should take some Deep State scalps.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.