The Atlantic Daily: Biden’s Saigon

America’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan represents a moral failure, George Packer argues.

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Late last summer, America’s longest war came to a startlingly quick end. As U.S. forces departed Afghanistan, the Taliban recaptured the country unexpectedly fast, and a desperate scene sprung up around the Kabul airport as our Afghan allies gathered in hopes of escaping the new regime.

In a new magazine feature, our staff writer George Packer recounts the messy withdrawal, and argues that the administration is responsible for “adding moral injury to military failure.” His entire 20,000-word story is worth sitting with, when you can. Until then, I’ve outlined three key takeaways from his reporting.

1. The United States failed to adequately plan.

“The end was always going to be messy,” George writes. “But through its failures, the administration dramatically compressed the evacuation in both time and space.” Failure to plan in the months following the April withdrawal announcement contributed to the chaos in August.

2. An informal network scrambled to help those left behind.

Soldiers, veterans, politicians, journalists, and nonprofit workers communicated with allies who were stranded in the country—some because of bureaucratic holdups with their visas. When hell broke loose at the airport, George explains, “the difference between the damned and the saved came down to three factors. The first was character—resourcefulness, doggedness, will. The second was what Afghans call wasita—connections. The third, and most important, was sheer luck.”

3. The administration undermined its own policy.

“The end of the war was the first test of a new foreign policy based on human rights rather than military force,” George writes. “The administration and its defenders failed it.”

Read his story.

The rest of the news in three sentences:

(1) The U.S. and Russia sparred at the United Nations Security Council meeting about the Ukraine crisis.

(2) The backlash against British Prime Minister Boris Johnson intensified after a damning report on “partygate.”

(3) A judge rejected plea deals for two of the three men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery.

Today’s Atlantic-approved activity:

If you haven’t already played it, now would be a good time to try Wordle, a popular new word game that The New York Times just bought for an amount “in the low seven figures.”

After you’ve completed today’s puzzle (good luck!), catch up on our coverage of the game. Our contributing writer Ian Bogost, who himself once created a viral game, explains his theory for why it has succeeded. Our crossword editor, Caleb Madison, devotes this week’s edition of his newsletter, The Good Word, to Wordle, which he plays with a religious fervor. Finally, in his newsletter, Galaxy Brain, Charlie Warzel ponders the bizarrely polarized responses the game has inspired online.

A break from the news:

Lori Gottlieb returns with a new “Dear Therapist” column, in which a reader seeks advice on grieving the loss of a parent.


Every weekday evening, our editors guide you through the biggest stories of the day, help you discover new ideas, and surprise you with moments of delight. Subscribe to get this delivered to your inbox.