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Former Trump administration official turned “Never Trump” zealot John Bolton appears to believe former President Donald Trump — not current President Joe Biden — deserves most of the blame for the catastrophe in Afghanistan.
During an appearance on CNN this Friday, he seemed almost defensive of the current president. For instance, he justified the president’s decision to become “bedfellows” with the Taliban by suggesting Trump had left him with no other option.
“Well, look, I think this is reflective of the overall error of judgment to withdraw at all. I mean, right now, we’re in a tactically impossible situation. So we’re doing things that otherwise would not even be comprehensible or justifiable,” he said.
It was as if he was excusing the president’s decision to entrust security to the Taliban.
“The execution of this withdraw has been bungled,” he then conceded, though it’s not clear if he was aiming the criticism at Biden or Trump.
Bolton then turned the discussion back to the withdrawal itself.
“It still points to the fundamental aspect of the error of withdrawing at all. … There’s finger-pointing Biden saying we’re stuck with the Trump deal, Trump’s saying, well, they could have done it differently. Look, the basic mistake that’s playing out here is that Trump negotiated this deal only with the Taliban. There are a lot of mistakes in the deal itself,” he said.
“But the fundamental problem of dealing with this terrorist organization is that the Trump negotiators delegitimized the Afghan government, the government we set up, the government with which all its many, many flaws, had at least some democratic legitimacy of which Taliban had none,” he added.
He further claimed that by “delegitimizing” the Afghan government, Trump had “shattered” the army’s morale.
There was much missing from Bolton’s analysis, including the current president’s decision to abandon Bagram Airbase, the current president’s decision to withdraw logistical support from the Afghan Army, and the current president’s decision to do practically nothing in response to over a dozen U.S. troops being killed.
To hear Bolton tell it, the situation on the ground would look exactly the same right now even if Trump were president instead of Biden.
“The argument is Trump would have retaliated massively. Yeah, well maybe, maybe not. Trump would have done what he thought would be politically beneficial. And what he thought was politically beneficial was getting out,” he said in a separate interview with Politico.
It’s true Trump wanted to get out of Afghanistan, but it’s also true that he had no qualms about raining literal hellfire on America’s enemies.
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) April 15, 2017
In fact, in a statement made to Fox News host Sean Hannity late Thursday, the former president claimed the attack at the airport in Kabul wouldn’t have happened in the first place were he in charge.
“It should never have happened and it would not have happened if I were your president,” he said.
During a subsequent interview on Fox News’s “Hannity,” he slammed the current president’s decision to parley with the Taliban.
“This is the dumbest thing. I think it was the dumbest move anybody has ever made perhaps in the history of our country, allowing this to happen,” he said.
“[T]he Taliban is the enemy. I dealt with the leader of the Taliban. This is not a very simple man. This is not a Boy Scout, to put it another way. This is a tough, hardened person that has been fighting us for many years. And we are using them now to protect us?” he added.
He also claimed that he wouldn’t have allowed the Taliban to commandeer U.S. equipment and then use the equipment to mock the United States.
“We had to take our $80 billion worth of equipment. We had to do all of the things that you know we had to do. And then I would have blown up all the airbases, but I would have kept Bagram, because Bagram is located right next to China, right near China and Iran. And it is in Afghanistan. So, we had the whole group covered,” he said.
Listen to some of the lengthy interview below:
(Video: Fox News)
Continuing his interview on CNN, Bolton raised concerns about the possible re-emergence of Islamic terrorism as a major national security threat.
“This is what happened when we withdrew from Iraq in 2011. You’ll recall we had to go back because of the emergence of ISIS. And the differences among these terrorist groups really are a lot less than meet the eye,” he said.
“In fact, ISIS’s criticism of Taliban is that it’s not hard a lot enough. I think we’ve got to look as well at the supporters of the terrorists including particularly Pakistan and others who have been subsidizing Taliban and other terrorist groups,” he added.
The question now is whether it was worth it. According to The Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin, the answer is no — and the truth is that “Biden’s withdrawal,” as he explicitly described it, has not made America safer.
“Yes, the United States will save billions by not arming the Afghan National Army (the problematic partner that it was). But now we face the costs of dealing with the fallout, which already includes caring for tens of thousands of new refugees,” he wrote in a column published after Thursday’s attacks.
“The United States undermined its credibility with its allies, damaged its ability to earn the trust of future local partners and abandoned millions of innocent people it professed to care about to a cruel fate. Meanwhile, Taliban-ruled Afghanistan is already becoming a haven for terrorist groups of all stripes,” he added.
Does he have a point?
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