The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion It’s unfair to blame Biden for al-Zawahiri returning to Kabul

President Biden, shown on screen, delivers remarks after the killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri earlier this week. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)

In his Aug. 3 Wednesday Opinion column, “Blame Biden’s disastrous withdrawal for Zawahiri being in Kabul,” Marc A. Thiessen suggested that it might not have been possible for al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to return to Kabul if President Biden had listened to his military commanders. He also suggested that the Taliban’s return to power might have been prevented if only we had left a residual U.S. force in Afghanistan. These are huge assumptions, considering that Mr. Biden’s predecessor set a date for our troop withdrawal and the Trump administration failed terribly in negotiating the regime change that followed.

Mr. Thiessen can play the GOP blame game with the best of them. But Mr. Biden deserves praise both for ending our nation’s longest no-win war and for bringing this 9/11 terrorist mastermind into the open after eluding us for more than 20 years.

Joe Isaacs, Derwood

The Post’s Aug. 3 editorial “Providing a haven ... again” is unfair when it concludes: “This is what Mr. Biden’s disorderly withdrawal has wrought, the return of a Taliban that presents old risks and will certainly bring new dangers to the people of Afghanistan and beyond.” The same unfairness is expressed in Marc A. Thiessen’s Aug. 3 Wednesday Opinion column,“Blame Biden’s disastrous withdrawal for Zawahiri being in Kabul.” Both pieces omit essential context: that the Trump administration’s agreement with the Taliban committed the United States to withdraw by a certain date. Withdrawal was also consistent with President Biden’s campaign promise to end the United States’ 20-year war in Afghanistan.

Admittedly, the withdrawal was disorderly, but further delay would have violated U.S. commitments and would have seriously endangered remaining U.S. troops. Even an orderly withdrawal might not have prevented the return of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to Kabul.

Edward Steinhouse, Columbia