POMPEO: The Biden Administration's Withdrawal From Afghanistan Is a Disgrace

The Biden Administration’s execution of our withdrawal from Afghanistan has been a stunning and tragic failure, leaving thousands of Americans stranded in the country.  This Administration has allowed the Taliban to fully take over the country on their terms, not America’s.  It has left millions of dollars of American military equipment and arms behind for the Taliban to do with as they please.  It has placed American diplomats and American troops still serving there in harm’s way by not executing an orderly evacuation prior to the rapid deterioration of the security situation.  It has been a total disaster.

Yet, rather than deal with this disaster, bring Americans in harm’s way home, and do what it can to improve the situation for our national security, the Biden Administration has instead decided to blame the Trump Administration, saying they inherited a bad deal from the previous Administration, and everyone else. This convenient loyalty to the Trump Administration’s policies has been nonexistent elsewhere in Biden’s foreign policy decisions – see America’s rejoining of the Paris Climate agreements, a return to negotiations over the JCPOA, the change in policy regarding the Nord Stream II pipeline, and more. It is an absolutely false claim that the Trump Administration’s withdrawal agreement would have ever allowed the current failure to manifest itself under our leadership.

Yes, in the Trump Administration, we too had a withdrawal plan in place, but it was fundamentally different.  First, our withdrawal plan was conditional, meaning that it involved a gradual drawdown of American military presence based on the Taliban’s cooperation with the United States and the Afghan government.  If the Taliban failed to live up to their commitments, we were crystal clear that serious and deadly reprisal would follow.  Second, the deal struck between the Trump Administration and the Taliban in February 2020 was negotiated in an entirely different context of deterrence and American security posture, meaning the Taliban took seriously the Trump Administration’s willingness to impose costs on them – something they clearly do not fear with the current Administration.

The American people have made very clear that they do not want an indefinite military presence in foreign countries.  The Trump Administration took that mandate seriously.  I led negotiations with the Taliban because we knew that absent an American presence, they would strive to take over the country.  This resulted in bringing together leaders of the Afghan government and the Taliban into the same room for the first time to work out an agreement.  We centered our negotiations around a conditional withdrawal of American troops, so that if the Taliban disregarded their own commitments, we would have the impetus to crush them and the power to do so.  However, when the Taliban met their commitments, which included helping America to take out terrorists and not attacking U.S. or coalition forces, we honored ours by reducing our military presence.

The result of this strategy? Not one American service member was killed by the Taliban following our negotiations, and our troop presence was greatly reduced – exactly what the American people wanted.

From the day the Biden Administration took office, though, the approach has been different – one of weakness and panic. The Taliban has not kept its commitments and has, in fact, taken over the country in a matter of weeks.  Why?  President Biden has projected weakness – weakness that invites attacks and ruins our deterrence credibility around the world.  The Trump Administration’s response to this would have been in keeping with our previous commitments – we would have utterly crushed them.

Why has the Taliban changed its approach so quickly? It is because the weak, ineffectual leadership which the Biden Administration has demonstrated on the world stage thus far makes America a target, not a force to be feared. The Taliban does not fear American reprisal because there has been no reprisal for America’s foes since the Biden Administration took over.

Rather than punish Iran for its continued aggression against us and our partners in the Middle East, the Biden Administration is trying to resurrect the JCPOA.  Rather than stand up to Russian aggression in Ukraine and put a stop to the building of the Nord Stream II pipeline, Biden is sitting back and allowing Russia to get whatever it wants.  The Biden Administration allowed diplomats of the Chinese Communist Party to castigate American leadership in Anchorage during its first major foreign policy summit.  The list goes on – all this has sent a message to our adversaries and allies alike: America is not “back”; America is running away. The Taliban took note of this and acted accordingly.

The lack of strong American leadership abroad which has marked the Biden Administration will continue to yield the same kinds of failures we are currently watching unfold in Kabul.  Biden and his team are to blame for this lack of leadership; and if they do not correct their course soon, the American people will be the ones who suffer.  In the short term, they must safely evacuate Americans from around the country who are stuck behind enemy lines.  In the long-term, we must rebuild American strength and foreign policy credibility so that our allies will trust us and our enemies will fear us.