President Biden’s meeting with the families of the 13 service members killed by ISIS-K terrorists at the Kabul airport during the recent airlifts out of Afghanistan was difficult, we are told.

“Don’t forget that name,” said the father of one of the young Marines who died in the car explosion that also took the lives of 170 Afghans.

Mark Schmitz said he glared at the president when the two met at Dover, Delaware, Air Force Base, where the bodies of the 13 were brought home to their loved ones in flag-draped coffins.

“Don’t you ever, ever forget that face,” Schmitz told the commander-in-chief, brandishing a photograph of his son Jared. “Don’t you ever forget the names of the other 12. And take some time to learn their stories.”

According to the account by Matt Viser of the Washington Post, Joe Biden “bristled” a reply, “I know their stories.”

As the families were boarding a bus following the gathering with the president, someone yelled in Biden’s direction, “I hope you burn in hell. That was my brother.”

Schmitz had at least one positive impression of the president. At some point during their encounter, Biden pulled from a pocket the card he apparently carries with him all the time of the number of U.S. killed in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Schmitz said he saw a hand-written notation on the card: “Plus 13.”

“I know it’s just a number, but it was a simple reflective thing that he looks at,” Schmitz said. “I’ll give him kudos there.”

The anger expressed by Schmitz and some of the other family members of the Afghan-airport-13 is understandable. To have your young son or daughter (two female service members died in the attack) brought home for burial must be excruciatingly hard.

As for Biden, as president of the United States, this is what he signed up for, as he surely knows.

Presidents make hard choices. They don’t evade. They don’t equivocate.

Most don’t back down – not when the national interest, as they see it, demands action. Of course, there are slackers in every group. President Buchanan dithered as the Union came undone in the days leading up to the Civil War.

Another president who flinched during a dire emergency was President Trump, who wanted governors to make the hard choices involved with the economy and mitigation following the emergence of the coronavirus, while he took credit for any recovery that might follow. (For details, see the Bob Woodward book, “Rage.”)

“Here stands the decision, here stands the president,” John F. Kennedy once wrote. The two eventually meet, or they should, if the man in the White House is at all serious about his job.

“The Buck Stops Here” read a sign on Harry Truman’s desk. The 33rd president also liked to say, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

Joe Biden is up to his elbows in hot water. If he minds, he’s not showing it.

It is clear that Biden entered the White House determined to do what both Barack Obama and Donald Trump only pledged to do: end the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.

America’s 20-year ground military engagement there is over. For that, thank, or blame, Joe Biden.

“We’ve been a nation too long at war,” the president said on Tuesday, the day following his Aug. 31 deadline to leave Afghanistan.

His decision to pull out was premised on the choices the U.S. faced. It wasn’t a matter of staying in place and staying small, but, as the White House saw it, of staying and going bigger, again, as the Taliban renewed the fight against a corrupt central government and a well-financed but poorly led Afghan army.

President Biden said, “I was not going to extend this forever war.”

After a 20-year stay, the U.S. did not exactly “cut-and-run” from Afghanistan, as many critics, including district Congressman Guy Reschenthaler, would have it.

This also needs to be said: While the last minute decision-making that led to the evacuation of over 124,000 Afghans, Americans, and other foreign nationals was certainly flawed, the evacuation itself, despite the loss of 13 American lives, was a logistical triumph.

In all the world, it was a feat only the U.S. could have performed.

Of course, this could all backfire if we do not keep a vigilant eye out for terrorist cells forming in Afghanistan who hope to strike America, a la 9/11.

President Biden has pledged to be on guard. We shall see.

Richard Robbins lives In Uniontown. He can be reached at dick.l.robbins@gmail.com.

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