Americans have been told that the fall of Kabul took the Biden administration by surprise, creating a situation — completely beyond our control — where the United States had to depend on the Taliban for security in the Afghan capital as the U.S. military conducted the evacuation.

That tale turns out to be untrue. The Post reports that the Taliban offered to allow the U.S. military to take responsibility for security in Kabul — but we declined. In other words, our dependence on the Taliban for security in Kabul was not a fait accompli, but a choice — an American choice.

This means that all the horrors the world witnessed over the past two weeks — desperate Afghans chasing and falling from U.S. military aircraft; Americans and Afghans blocked and beaten at Taliban checkpoints; Afghan interpreters hiding from door-to-door searches by Taliban thugs; American veterans organizing private rescue missions for them because the commander in chief would not; and flag-draped coffins arriving at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to be received by grieving families — might have been prevented.

According to The Post, the Taliban hadn’t intended to take Kabul on Aug. 15. But when Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled and the Afghan security forces melted away, a meeting was quickly arranged in Doha, Qatar, between Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, and Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar. “We have a problem,” Baradar reportedly told McKenzie. “We have two options to deal with it: You” — the U.S. military — “take responsibility for securing Kabul or you have to allow us to do it.”

That’s right: The Taliban leader offered to let the U.S. military take control of the city.

He said he would enter Kabul only if the U.S. forces would “allow” them to do so. But according to The Post, “Throughout the day, [President] Biden had remained resolute in his decision to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan. The collapse of the Afghan government hadn’t changed his mind.”

So McKenzie — “aware of those orders” — turned down the Taliban leader’s offer to let the U.S. military secure the city, and told him the United States needed control of only the airport, so we could evacuate our citizens and Afghan allies. “On the spot, an understanding was reached, according to two other U.S. officials: The United States could have the airport until Aug. 31. But the Taliban would control the city,” The Post reports. I asked McKenzie for comment, but he declined to respond.

One former senior general officer told me the U.S. military could definitely have secured the capital. We would likely have secured the green zone where Western embassies are located (not the entire city, which was not secured anyway under Afghan forces) and the access to the airport, he says. We could have set up our own perimeter and established a secure corridor from Kabul that would have allowed us to get all our citizens and Afghan allies out safely. But we chose not to do this. Instead, we greenlighted the Taliban to take control of Kabul, which made the United States dependent on the Haqqani network — whose leader is an al-Qaeda-linked U.S.-designated terrorist with a reward of up to $5 million on his head — for the security of our men and women in uniform.

The negligence and incompetence of this decision is simply stunning. The American people need answers to pressing questions. The Post report says Biden remained determined throughout the day to withdraw all U.S. troops, and that McKenzie was “aware” of Biden’s orders when he turned down the opportunity the Taliban presented. Did McKenzie relay the Taliban’s offer to the president? Did he ask for additional troops to secure the capital? Did Biden decline to provide them?

This much is certain: The Biden administration had the chance to control Kabul while we evacuated, but chose to cede it to the Taliban. That is a dereliction of duty unlike any we have seen in modern times. Our leaders made a conscious choice to put the safety of American civilians, service members and Afghan allies in the hands of terrorists rather than the U.S. armed forces — a decision that led directly to the deaths of 13 Americans in an Islamic State attack on the Kabul airport last Thursday at the hands of a suicide bomber. It is a national disgrace.

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Conspiracy theories blaming George W. Bush for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have been debunked, yet millions of Americans still believe them. (Kate Woodsome/The Washington Post)