Stephen Colbert weighs in on the ‘heartbreaking’ fall of Afghanistan

On Monday’s “Late Show,” Stephen Colbert talked about the “heartbreaking” situation in Afghanistan. America spent 20 years occupying the country and training the Afghan military, and the Taliban retook it in 10 days. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the fall of Kabul isn’t like the fall of Saigon, another humiliating American military outcome. “True, in Saigon they speak Vietnamese,” Colbert quipped. 

“It’s hard to argue that the White House didn’t shank the withdrawal,” Colbert said. President Joe Biden apparently had bad intelligence. In July, Biden said that it was “highly unlikely” that the Taliban would retake the country, which was wrong. “That is the most inaccurate prediction from a president since Abe Lincoln said ‘see you after the play!’” Colbert said. (Jon Batiste said “too soon” to that one.) 

Republicans relished blaming Biden for the failure, with former President Donald Trump calling on Biden to “resign in disgrace,” conveniently forgetting that he himself started the withdrawal process and had hoped to have it completed last year. “Pretty weird to blame Biden for withdrawing troops when this summer he was claiming credit for it,” Colbert said. Colbert said that Trump’s policies on the withdrawal and dealing with the Taliban were equally responsible for the situation in Afghanistan to Biden’s botched execution. “You can’t put all the blame for a debacle you helped set the stage for,” Colbert said. “That’s like Andrew Lloyd Webber calling ‘Cats’ a terrible movie. You wrote a musical with no plot — how did you think this was going to end?” 

Colbert said that Biden was right to say in his speech Monday afternoon that ending American military involvement in Afghanistan was the right decision because we can’t fight the Afghan government and army’s battle anymore. “We have had troops there for 20 years — they fought, they sacrificed, their families sacrificed so that we wouldn’t have a terrorist attack in America planned in a foreign country,” Colbert said. “Why should our soldiers be fighting radicals in a civil war in Afghanistan? We’ve got our own on Capitol Hill.”

Biden said that the Taliban would have taken over whenever we pulled out, whether it was five years ago or 15 years in the future. Colbert agreed and pointed out that as recently as last month, 70 percent of Americans supported withdrawal from Afghanistan. (A more recent poll, however, showed many Americans had changed their minds.)

“In the end, you can make us accept that there was no good alternative, but you can’t make us feel good about it,” Colbert said. “The only people who can feel good about this are the service members and their families who aren’t gonna see soldiers sent into harm’s way for no reason that the commander in chief of either party can articulate. But there’s one more thing: For the last 20 years, four separate administrations told the American people to care about the plight of all the Afghan people, especially the women. And we did care, and that’s not going to change. All that’s changed is that there’s nothing we can do about it now. So pulling out may be the right thing to do, but it’s heartbreaking. It’s humbling when the right thing feels so wrong.” 

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