Graveyard Of Empires-- This Time Owned By Trump & Pompeo

Pompeo meeting with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Doha

I'm pretty sure Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) voted for Trump-- and even more certain that he regrets that and wishes he hadn't. Despite having 7 Republicans primarying him this cycle, Kinzinger continues speaking out forcefully about Trump, who he voted to impeach after the 1/6 attempted coup. Today, Kinzinger was a guest on State of the Union, where he told Brianna Keilar that the rocky withdrawal from Afghanistan is more Trump's fault than anyone else's. The American public isn't seeing it that way, according to a new poll by YouGov for CBS News. Only a quarter of Americans understand Trump's role. It's going to take a lot of work to convince them otherwise.

That chart breaks down like this by party: 44% of Democrats assign Trump a lot of blame and 28% assign him some blame, while another 28% assign him either no blame or not much blame. Among Republicans, only 7% agree with Kinzinger that Trump deserves a lot of blame, although 17% of Republicans acknowledge he deserves some of the blame. 76% of Republicans feel Trump deserves either a little blame or none at all. And among independent voters:

  • Trump deserves a lot of blame- 22%

  • Trump deserves some blame- 30%

  • Trump deserves not much blame- 22%

  • Trump deserves no blame- 25%

"Let's keep in mind, Mike Pompeo met with the Taliban," said Kinzinger this morning. "As Donald Trump was publicly saying, 'We have to get out of Afghanistan at all costs. It's not worth it,' Mike Pompeo meets with the Taliban and tries to negotiate something... They set this up to fail."

Republicans are doing a full court press against Biden over Afghanistan and his approval ratings have taken a significant hit because of it. You probably read about some of the criticism leveled at Trump's handling of the withdrawal (like by Olivia Troye a former Pence national security staffer)-- but that is like a one on a one to ten scale, compared to the incredibly partisan and united GOP front against Biden. For example, ever hear of Lisa Curtis? She was a deputy assistant to Trump and his senior director for South and Central Asia on the National Security Council. Chris Cuomo had her on his show last week and although she criticized Trump's agreement with the Taliban, she blamed Biden for not scrapping the deal when he took over, which is what most Americans seem to be feeling.

On Friday, AP reporters Matthew Lee and Eric Tucker asked-- from a GOP perspective-- Was Biden handcuffed by Trump’s Taliban deal in Doha? "Biden," they wrote, "can go only so far in claiming the agreement boxed him in. It had an escape clause: The U.S. could have withdrawn from the accord if Afghan peace talks failed. They did, but Biden chose to stay in it, although he delayed the complete pullout from May to September... Renegotiating, though, would have been difficult. Biden would have had little leverage. He, like Trump, wanted U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. Pulling out of the agreement might have forced him to send thousands more back in." Trump had already withdrawn 5,000 troops, leaving, in effect, a skeleton crew, just as the British had done in their catastrophic ending of the first Anglo-Afghan War. According to Trumpist Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, Trump's intention was to leave 800 military personnel after forcing Ghani to make a deal with the Taliban that left all the cards in the Taliban's hands. Once Trump announced "the deal," the Taliban began bribing Afghan units to hand over the weapons and bribing warlords and provincial authorities to prepare to switch sides. The Taliban was so happy with Trump's weakness that they openly hoped for his reelection. Secretary of Defense James Mattis was so furious about Trump removing half the US troops with nothing but a "peace in our time" phony baloney deal that he abruptly resigned. Meanwhile, Trump pressured Ghani into releasing 5,000 hard core Taliban fighters and was claiming, absurdly, that the Taliban would >take over the job of fighting terrorism in the region.

[Trump's] historic deal was always high-wire diplomacy, requiring a degree of trust in the Taliban as a potential peace partner and inked despite skepticism from war-weary Afghans who feared losing authority in any power-sharing agreement.
“The Doha agreement was a very weak agreement, and the U.S. should have gained more concessions from the Taliban,” said Lisa Curtis, an Afghanistan expert who served during the Trump administration as the National Security Council’s senior director for South and Central Asia.
She called it “wishful thinking” to believe that the Taliban might be interested in lasting peace. The resulting agreement, she said, was heavily weighted toward the Taliban, contributed to undermining Afghan President Ashraf Ghani-- he fled the country Sunday and is now in the United Arab Emirates-- and facilitated the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners without a commensurate concession from the Taliban.
“They wanted U.S. forces out, and they wanted to take over the country militarily, and they believed that they could do that,” Curtis said of the Taliban. “That was just crystal clear.”
The agreement called for the U.S. to bring down its forces to 8,600 from 13,000 over the following three to four months, with the remaining U.S. forces withdrawing in 14 months, or by May 1.
...The agreement provided significant legitimacy to the Taliban, whose leaders met with Pompeo, the first secretary of state to have such interactions. There were also discussions of them coming to the U.S. to meet with Trump.

"Ashraf Ghani Flees Afghanistan" by Nancy Ohanian

On Friday, the NY Times reported that "Some former senior Trump officials now call that agreement fatally flawed, saying it did little more than provide cover for a pullout that Trump was impatient to begin before his re-election bid. They also say it laid the groundwork for the chaos unfolding now in Kabul. 'Our secretary of state signed a surrender agreement with the Taliban,' Trump’s second national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said of Pompeo during a podcast interview with the journalist Bari Weiss on Wednesday. 'This collapse goes back to the capitulation agreement of 2020. The Taliban didn’t defeat us. We defeated ourselves.' And in an interview with CNN on Wednesday, former Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that, while President Biden 'owns' the ultimate outcome in Afghanistan, Trump had earlier 'undermined' the agreement through his barely disguised impatience to exit the country with little apparent regard for the consequences. That included an October 2020 declaration by Trump that he wanted the 5,000 American troops then in Afghanistan home by Christmas... After Trump moved thousands of troops out of Afghanistan during his last year in office, Biden inherited just 2,500 troops in the country. Biden has cited the U.S. commitment in Doha to remove all remaining forces by May of this year, a deadline he did not meet, as a key factor in his decision to continue the withdrawal."

Nor is there evidence that top Trump officials prioritized planning for the eventual evacuation of Americans, or of Afghans who might be subject to Taliban reprisals for working with the United States.
Trump has suggested broadly that he would have overseen “a much different and much more successful withdrawal,” even though in the closing months of his presidency, he repeatedly pressured his generals and national security aides to accelerate the process.
And he has claimed that he would have ensured mass evacuations from Afghanistan, even though aides say he never focused on the issue.
“Can anyone even imagine taking out our military before evacuating civilians and others who have been good to our country and who should be allowed to seek refuge?” Trump said in a statement on Monday.
...Asked about Mr. Trump’s statements, and whether he was aware of discussions about such evacuations, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton suggested there had been none.
“It’s striking how Biden’s decision-making here so closely follows the Trump pattern,” Bolton said. “Biden wanted out; he apparently didn’t want to be bothered with details that might have thwarted or slowed down executing his decision. So he left. Very Trumpian.”
The Trump administration’s processing of applications by Afghans eligible for a Special Immigrant Visa, under a program created by Congress to resettle Afghans who had assisted the U.S. military, moved at a pace that frustrated refugee rights activists. In 2018, the International Refugee Assistance Project filed a lawsuit against Pompeo and other U.S. officials, accusing them of “systemic delays” in approving such visas.