What If Intelligence Officers Were Asking the Questions at a Biden Press Conference?

“Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one.” – H. L. Mencken


“Presser” is media slang for a press conference; in theory, an opportunity for political mandarins to keep the public informed. The difference between a Trump and Biden presser is astonishing, especially if there’s bad news on the front page.

President Trump was savaged daily by rude, often nasty reporters. President Biden, amidst the ongoing Afghan crisis, is gifted with softballs from the same journalists. Adding insult to alibi, the press has COVID-19 and hurricane Ida as an excuse to avoid covering the unfolding disaster in South Asia.

Before Bidens’s big fail is consigned to Page Six, a group of erstwhile intelligence officers that I know has compiled a selection of questions for the president, questions that a pandering media might never ask. Call it a fantasy press conference.   

Mister President: You have said on several occasions that the US “withdrawal” from Afghanistan would have been chaotic and humiliating no matter when it occurred.

Are you aware that the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989; on parade, flags flying, equipment intact, in broad daylight - without casualties or opposition.

Soviets leaving Afghanistan 1989 // RIA  Novosti, via Wikipedia // CC BY-SA 3.0 More photos here.

Follow up: The comparative optics of the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 and the American fiasco in 2021 are astounding.

What do you think that contrast says about our military performance, especially competence and leadership?

Follow up: When the Russians retreated in 1989, the CIA claimed “we won.” 

Is Afghanistan still a win today?

Mister President: You and the Trump administration agreed on the need to leave Afghanistan. Trump would have withdrawn by 1 May, the middle of Ramadan. You changed the deadline to 1 September, closer to the 20th Anniversary of 9/11.

Were you expecting to take a victory lap this September?

Follow up: What, then, were your motives for changing the withdrawal date?

Mister President: After three tries now, America can’t beat a Taliban equipped with fear, small arms, and Toyotas. What do you think another generational military failure says about our ability to deter Chinese imperial aggression, deter the Russians, or defeat the international, indeed now global jihad?

Mister President: Your team continues to call the operation in Kabul a “retrograde.”

Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to call what we saw as a rout, defeat, retreat, or even humiliation?

Mister President: Clearly, we quit in Afghanistan.

Do you think that the Taliban and associated resident terror networks are about to quit, too?

Follow up: Your former boss Barack Hussein Obama characterized ISIS as “second string.”

As new graves are dug at Arlington, do you stand by that assessment of ISIS?

Mister President: Given the Afghan fiasco, the Russians, Chinese, and Iranians seem to be gloating at American expense.

Do you think American standing in the world has been damaged by your administration’s performance in Afghanistan?

Follow up: Mr. Putin has said that the Russian army “could take Kiev in a week” if necessary. Is the Russian president wrong?

Follow up: So, you don’t think the Kabul Kabuki dance makes our allies nervous?

Mister President: The Turks abandoned their security positions at the Kabul airport before the evacuation was complete.

Do you think Turkey is a true NATO “partner” -- or a reliable ally in the war on terror?

Follow up: Some say that Turkey is NATO’s Trojan Horse.

Do you have a position on Turkish reliability as a “partner?”

Follow up: Do you believe Turkey is blackmailing NATO and the EU by threatening to open the refugee spigot into Eastern Europe? 

Mister President: Along with the Bagram airbase gift, the Pentagon tells us that the Taliban released thousands of al-Qaida and ISIS terrorists back onto the streets of Pakistan. At the same time, we are told that ISIS and the Taliban are “sworn” enemies.

How do you square that circle?

Follow up: In fact, both groups are also “sworn” religious fanatics.

Is it not possible that hate for infidels in general, and hate for America in particular, trumps any petty intramural squabbles?

Mister President: You often refer to OTH, over-the-horizon capabilities, as the next big thing in anti-terror operations.

Do you think airpower alone wins wars? Or are drone strikes just the most convenient or most economical way to limit U.S. casualties, while making it appear that your team is doing something about Islamofascism?

Mister President: Clearly the Taliban are sharp traders.

What are you giving the Taliban for allowing evacuees to depart Afghanistan in September and beyond?  

Follow up: Why are the Taliban not on the CTC official list of terror groups?

Mister President: Does your State Department or Pentagon think terror cults like the Taliban can be bribed to behave?

Mister President: I get the impression that ISIS-K is our terror flavor of the day. Yesterday, it might have been the Taliban, ISIS, or al-Qaida. We are led to believe that these groups are unrelated and divided by local motives.

Given the number of global Islamist groups now recognized by the Counter Terrorism Center, is it not possible that the Muslim jihad is a strategic threat?

Follow up: What roles do Muslim sponsor states like Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan play in the global jihad?

How would you characterize the so-called “war on terror;” win, loss, or draw?

Does the Pentagon still believe in winning today?

Mister President: Over the years, we have been assured by the intelligence community that Muslim terror is not an “existential” threat. Now that the Sunni Taliban have taken Afghanistan; nuclear Pakistan, next door, seems to be at risk. Concurrently, proto-nuclear Shite jihadists have control in Iran.

How many Islamist states have to possess nuclear weapons before the global jihad becomes an existential threat to America?

Mister President: You have said on several occasions that the buck stops at your office. At the same time, you blame; the Trump administration, our Afghan military “partners,” and even “inevitability” for the Kabul mess.

Which is it?

Is there a date certain when your administration takes responsibility for any failure on your watch?

Thank you, sir.

G. Murphy Donovan is the former Director of Research and Russian (nee Soviet) Studies at Air Force Intelligence under General James Clapper.

Image: RIA Novosti, via Wikipedia // CC BY-SA 3.0

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