At Townhall: Neither Biden Nor His Speechwriters Can Do Simple Math on the Afghan Pullout

Sep 1, 2021 | op-ed

Dr. John Lott had a new piece at Townhall.

You have to wonder whether Biden’s speechwriters can do simple math. Possibly they don’t even care about getting numbers right because they know that no one in the press will check. 

But by virtually any measure, Biden’s speech on Tuesday claiming that our surrender in Afghanistan was a rip-roaring success didn’t go well. Biden claimed, “I take responsibility for the decision.” But he blamed the United States military, who he says unanimously advised him on what to do. He blamed the Americans who refused to leave despite supposedly being warned multiple times, ignoring Biden himself told people that everything was going to be fine when Americans left. He blamed the “previous administration’s agreement” to leave by May 1st (of course, Biden ignored that date and all the other parts of the strategy and changed his own date from September 11th to August 31st). He blamed the Afghan national security forces and others. But others can dissect all of those many false statements.

My point is simple. Take three numbers provided by Biden that can’t all be true.

“Our Operation Allied Rescue ended up getting more than 5,500 Americans out.”

“The bottom line: 90 percent of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave, were able to leave.”

“Now we believe that about 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan with some intention to leave.”

If more than 5,500 Americans represent 90 percent of the Americans who wanted to leave, that means that there were at least 611 who wanted out but still stuck in Afghanistan. But what is an extra 400 or 500 hundred American citizens stuck in a brutal country where Taliban soldiers are raping women and going door to door hunting for their enemies to kill? If there were only 100 to 200 Americans were still stuck in the country, you would think that Biden would brag that he had gotten out 97 or 98 percent of the Americans there. Saying that 10 percent of those Americans were left just doesn’t come across well.

Note that “90 percent of Americans” who wanted to leave assumes that everyone who wanted to leave could register with the U.S. embassy. Still, there is evidence significant numbers haven’t registered.  

The Biden administration put out different numbers every other day on the number of Americans in Afghanistan (ranging up to 15,000). Even on Tuesday, different numbers were coming out of the State Department on the number of Americans who wanted to get out, saying that it was “fewer than 250.” But these are Biden’s numbers in one speech, so it isn’t like changing information accounts for this inconsistency. Moreover, Biden made the unusual decision to wait a day to give his speech on the withdrawal, and a lot of efforts must have gone into preparing something this important.

Over 600 Americans still stuck in Afghanistan is about ten times the number of hostages taken by Iran back in 1979 during Jimmy Carter’s watch.

Biden promised on August 18th that “if there’s American citizens left, we’re going to stay to get them all out.” Possibly the continued sleight of hand with the numbers is an attempt to minimize that broken promise. 

Of course, we also left tens of thousands of Afghans who helped the United States in our war with the Taliban to fend for themselves. Even the Washington Post noted: “Thousands of Afghans who put their lives at risk to work with the United States’ NATO allies have been left behind.” A headline in the Wall Street Journal pointed out: “Afghan Interpreter Who Helped Rescue Biden in 2008 Left Behind After U.S. Exit.”

Biden’s credibility is already under assault. Being unable to put together numbers that make any sense makes the whole process look even more ludicrous. But don’t expect the fact-checkers at the Washington Post or other outlets to point out even these obvious inconsistencies. 

With no American reporters left in Afghanistan, you won’t get many stories of the Americans left behind being tortured and murdered. Biden’s hope is undoubtedly that this will fade from people’s memory.

Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and most recently the author of “Gun Control Myths.” Up until January, he worked in the U.S. Department of Justice as senior adviser for research and statistics.

John R. Lott, Jr., “Neither Biden Nor His Speechwriters Can Do Simple Math on the Afghan Pullout,” Townhall, September 1, 2021.
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