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I Ran Team Trump’s Afghan Withdrawal — Biden’s Attempt to Blame Us is Just Sad

August 19, 2021 6:35pm

Kash Patel

President Joe Biden has sought to place blame for the shocking dénouement in Afghanistan on the situation he “inherited” from the Trump administration. What a sad-sack attempt at blame-shifting. Team Trump’s withdrawal plan was sound. What proved catastrophic were Biden’s changes to that plan.

I’m intimately familiar with former President Donald Trump’s Afghanistan strategy. In November 2020, I was named chief of staff at the Pentagon, where one of my primary responsibilities was to wind down the forever war in Afghanistan.

Trump instructed me to arrange a conditions-based, methodical exit plan that would preserve the national interest. The plan ended up being fairly simple: The Afghan government and the Taliban were both told they would face the full force of the US military if they caused any harm to Americans or American interests in Afghanistan.

Next, both parties would negotiate to create an interim-joint government, and both sides had to repudiate al Qaeda. Lastly, a small special-operations force would be stationed in the country to take direct action against any terrorist threats that arose. When all those conditions were met — along with other cascading conditions — then a withdrawal could, and did, begin.

We successfully executed this plan until Jan. 20, 2021. During this interval — when there were no US casualties in Afghanistan — President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban conducted multiple rounds of negotiations, and al Qaeda was sidelined. The result was a successful drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan to 2,500, the lowest count since the dawn of the War on Terror.

We handed our entire plan to the incoming Biden administration during the lengthy transition. The new team simply wasn’t interested.

Everything changed when the new commander in chief declared that US forces would leave Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, pushing back the Trump administration’s timetable by four months. Crucially, he didn’t condition the withdrawal on continued adherence to the agreed-upon stipulations.

It would be an unconditional pullout with an arbitrary date based on pure symbolism — and set in stone.

At that point, the Taliban sat back and waited for the date to draw near, then launched a countrywide offensive, knowing they had no reason to fear any reprisals from this administration. The ongoing chaos — not least the stranding of US personnel and allies — was the natural result of the Biden administration’s decision to eschew a conditions-based plan.

With an unmovable withdrawal date in place, Team Biden showed no appreciation for ground-level intelligence reporting, which was largely rendered irrelevant. Just this week, Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, claimed the security situation in Afghanistan “unfolded at unexpected speed.”

That is a shocking statement to hear from one of our nation’s most senior national-security officials. No one should have been the slightest bit surprised that when relieved of any conditions or obligations, the Taliban could and would overrun the whole country in the absence of US military power.

Tragically, because of the Biden administration’s single-minded focus on the pullout date, hard-nosed intelligence was replaced with wishful thinking and false promises. In April, Secretary of State Antony Blinken vowed, “We will withdraw our troops responsibly, deliberately, safely. . . . We’ll pursue a durable and just political settlement between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban.”

None of that happened. Last month Blinken assured us that Biden’s withdrawal plan wouldn’t endanger the US embassy in Kabul, which is now evacuated. And Biden himself declared last month that it was “highly unlikely” the Taliban would overrun Afghanistan, which they have now done with blinding speed.

Amid this cheap political rhetoric, ignorance of the ground-level security situation and the lack of a conditions-based plan, Afghanistan has fallen. America and the world deserve much better from those privileged to serve in high office. We are witnessing the utter collapse of a government — and not just in Afghanistan.

Kash Patel served as chief of staff for the Department of Defense and as deputy assistant to the president for counterterrorism in the Trump administration.



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