Gary Franks: Afghanistan withdrawal compares unfavorably to past disasters | COMMENTARY

Taliban special force fighters arrive outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport after the U.S. military's withdrawal in Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021.

The Vietnam exit, the Iran hostages, the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Titanic are all comparisons I can draw from the botched Afghanistan departure, with the Afghanistan departure being far worse than any of the others listed.

Plainly spoken, President Joe Biden knowingly and willingly left Americans behind, against their wishes in the control of a 20-year enemy of the United States government. A country that served as the base country responsible for the worst terrorist attack against the mainland of the United States ever.


If this had happened on the watch of President Barack Obama, he would have been impeached. If President Donald Trump had allowed this to happen, within hours he would have been impeached and convicted by the Senate, and Mike Pence would have been moving into the White House.

If any of the 100-plus Americans are harmed or, God forbid, killed, Mr. Biden would be totally culpable.


Trusting the Taliban possibly contributed already to the deaths of 13 U.S. service members, injuries to many others and the deaths of nearly 200 civilians.

Added to this distressing situation is the fact that we might have made the Taliban one of the best equipped militaries in the world, while making the U.S. and her allies less safe.

Titanic. The incompetence in Afghanistan is clear. Just imagine if the crew of the Titanic packed up to abandon the sinking ship but used the excuse that they didn’t know how fast the ship was going to sink, so they thought they had more time to come back and get the women and children off the ship safely. Then, imagine that the crew returned to rescue civilians but left before saving all the people who were alive and well — knowingly and willingly leaving them behind.

Americans were not impressed that of the 120,000 evacuated from Afghanistan, about 5% were Americans. It was like bragging about the 705 people who were rescued from the Titanic. We are thankful, but it does not alter the narrative.

The Afghanistan government had always fought with the U.S. military against the Taliban. That is what they were comfortable doing. Abruptly telling them we would no longer be helping was like telling an all-star baseball team that its catcher has quit the game. What will happen next? It is very predictable: The team would fail, forfeiting the game without a pitch being thrown, as they have no catcher. And that is exactly what happened last month per the Afghan military. This was no surprise.

The Iran hostage crisis was a genuine surprise. It was not a self-inflicted crisis. No American hostages lost their lives, though it took a while to get them released.

The Vietnam exit was messy after our defeat. We did not leave any civilians behind. And we fought hard to get every prisoner of war returned or their remains returned.

The Bay of Pigs was a failure. President John F. Kennedy accepted total blame. He did not make excuses or blame anyone else, including his predecessor, President Eisenhower, despite the plan originating with Eisenhower. Kennedy accepted total blame for the poor execution and failure.


The Cuban Missile Crisis was Kennedy’s shining moment at a critical point in time. I can still remember the fear on the faces of people around me. But we trusted our president. He proved he deserved our trust by the way he handled the Bay of Pigs. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev blinked, and the U.S. prevailed, with Russia removing the missiles as Kennedy publicly demanded.

We all make mistakes. We are all human, even presidents. Kennedy is a great example. It should be noted that Khrushchev had embarrassed Kennedy months before when they had met face to face. Revenge is sweet. Khrushchev was removed by the Russian government for his failure.

America is very proud of our military, the most powerful in the history of man. We all know that it pained our service members to not finish the mission. We all know that it was our commander in chief and secretary of state who unfortunately gave the appearance of blinking under pressure.

The administration should admit failure, vow to improve, seek more objective input and pray to God for guidance. That approach has always served America well.

Gary Franks (Twitter: @GaryFranks) is a former Republican U.S. Representative from Connecticut. He co-hosts the “We Speak Frankly” podcast with his son.