After failures in Afghanistan, Biden and the intelligence community face their own lab leak theory deadline
by Zachary Faria, Commentary Fellow | | August 20, 2021 02:00 PM
Whether the chaos in Afghanistan was a result of intelligence failures or President Joe Biden ignoring intelligence reports, it does not inspire confidence for what should be a major announcement next week: the intelligence community’s conclusion on the Wuhan lab leak theory.
After a bad news cycle that forced him to treat the lab leak theory seriously, Biden announced on May 26 that he had asked the intelligence community “to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days.” That deadline would be on Tuesday, and it couldn’t come at a more disconcerting time.
Wuhan Lab Theory: Revisiting Past Questions
Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said he was “not actually familiar” with intelligence reports indicating that the Taliban could take Kabul within weeks. According to the New York Times, Biden’s public statements ignored intelligence reports that had grown increasingly pessimistic in July, but “key American decisions were made long before July, when the consensus among intelligence agencies was that the Afghan government could hang on for as long as two years.”
Meanwhile, we are supposed to be getting a more definitive answer from both Biden and the intelligence community on whether or not COVID-19 leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China. Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee have already made a compelling case in favor of the lab leak theory, and any assertion that the virus has a natural origin would need to wrestle with the evidence in their report.
Can Biden and the intelligence community be trusted to do just that when it appears both were horribly off the mark when it came to withdrawal from Afghanistan? It’s not clear, nor is it clear that Biden will come back from his vacation to relay this information to the public or that he even remembers he made this request 86 days ago.
The lab leak theory goes beyond China’s culpability. If COVID-19 did indeed result from gain-of-function research in Wuhan, the consequences could stretch all the way to the National Institutes of Health. A report next week (if we get one) on the origins of COIVD-19 must be rigorous and airtight. Given this past week, anything else would only invite even more uncertainty and raise more questions about our own intelligence capabilities.