Joe Biden has a long history of verbal flubs, but this one may take the cake.
‘The Taliban, per se, is not our enemy,” Biden said.
That’s right. The Vice-President of the United States, initially added to the Obama campaign to add foreign policy gravitas to the ticket, has come out and questioned whether the Taliban are our enemy.
Let’s get right to the context, which the media will inevitably hype in an effort to conflate an amazing gaffe with straight-talkin’, straight-shooting’ foreign policy from the VP.
Biden was answering questions from Les Gelb for a Newsweek interview, the full text of which you can read here. The subject matter of the interview ranged considerably across the foreign policy spectrum from Afghanistan to Iran and China.
But it was on Afghanistan that the Vice President uttered the particularly shocking line about the Taliban. Biden was apparently addressing the reconciliation process in Afghanistan, which could mean a brokered peace with the Taliban. Specifically, he said:
“Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That’s critical. There is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy because it threatens U.S. interests. If, in fact, the Taliban is able to collapse the existing government, which is cooperating with us in keeping the bad guys from being able to do damage to us, then that becomes a problem for us.”
Biden’s timing is interesting, as a controversial sections of the “National Defense Authorization Act” have made their way through Congress that specifically cite the Taliban. Dubbed by critics as the “Indefinite detention bill” over fears it could strip U.S. citizens of their right to due process and a civilian trial, the Taliban comes up in detainee sections. Under NDAA section 1031, for example, the language on detainee status reads:
“A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.”
So the vice president claims the Taliban is not really a U.S. enemy. But a bill just passed Congress says any form of support to the Taliban would effectively make anyone a terrorist stripped of their civilian rights and detained indefinitely under military jurisdiction.
It seems pretty clear that’s because the Taliban is a U.S. enemy, apart from any concerns of the NDAA itself.
Add that to the fact that U.S. soldiers are killing — and being killed by — Taliban fighters every day, and have been for 10 years, and you have a truly monumental gaffe even by Biden standards.