As Taliban forces entered Kabul—Afghanistan’s capital and largest city—and Afghans rushed to Hamid Karzai International Airport in a last-ditch effort to flee the regime, the Republican National Committee (RNC) decided it no longer wanted to claim credit for the “historic peace agreement” the Trump administration brokered with the Taliban.
As recently as June, the RNC website boasted that Trump had “continued to take the lead in peace talks as he signed a historic peace agreement with the Taliban in Afghanistan, which would end America’s longest war.” The RNC page linked to articles calling the deal a “decisive move” toward peace and “the best path” forward for the U.S.
But now, when you click on the link, all that emerges is a 404 error, as Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel pointed out. The RNC apparently couldn’t scrub that page fast enough.
Donald Trump, however, has repeatedly patted himself on the back for his expert deal-making skills with the Taliban. In a statement released April 18, 2021, Trump hailed getting out of Afghanistan as a “wonderful and positive thing to do,” adding that he hoped Biden would stick with his speedy timeline for withdrawal.
“I planned to withdraw on May 1st, and we should keep as close to that schedule as possible,” Trump said in a statement that has since been deleted from his official website. Seem like the revisionist history bug is catching in GOP circles.
In late June, Trump bragged about locking Biden into a timeline for withdrawal through his expert negotiating skills.
“I started the process, all the troops are coming home,” Trump told rallygoers in Ohio on June 26. “[The Biden administration] couldn’t stop the process—they wanted to, but it was very tough to stop the process.”
In actuality, it wasn’t just that Trump locked his successor into a timeline for withdrawal; it’s that the deal he and his top negotiator struck virtually ensured the collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan forces. The Washington Post reports that Taliban forces were able to capitalize on the February 2020 deal that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cut with Taliban leaders ensuring the U.S. exit.
“Some Afghan forces realized they would soon no longer be able to count on American airpower and other crucial battlefield support and grew receptive to the Taliban’s approaches,” writes the Post. What those Afghan forces often got in exchange for negotiating a cease-fire and handing over their weapons to the Taliban was money, plain and simple. Without the promise of U.S. assistance, many Afghan forces clearly recalibrated their chances of triumphing over the Taliban and concluded that taking the money and fleeing provided more certainty than staying and fighting.
Trump’s top negotiator on the disastrous deal with the Taliban also seems to have developed amnesia.
On Sept. 12, 2020, then-Sec. Pompeo tweeted a picture of himself and Taliban Political Deputy Mullah Baradar in Doha, Qatar. “The Taliban must seize this opportunity to forge a political settlement and reach a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire to end 40 years of war,” Pompeo wrote. The next day, Pompeo tweeted that he was “proud to visit Doha at this truly historic time for the Afghan people.”
But over the weekend, Pompeo—who thinks he’s primed for a 2024 GOP presidential bid—had a change of heart.
“The Taliban are butchers,” he wrote, claiming the terms he negotiated had held up great until the Biden administration inherited them. “The deterrence we achieved held during our time. This administration has failed,” he said, attaching what was surely a deeply reported Breitbart piece.
In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Pompeo defended his Trump-era deal, saying, “It’s worth noting this did not happen on our watch.”
On Saturday, President Joe Biden released a statement blaming the Trump-Pompeo deal for saddling him with no good choices in Afghanistan when he took office.
“When I came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor—which he invited the Taliban to discuss at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 of 2019—that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on U.S. Forces,” Biden said, noting that Trump drew down U.S. forces in the country to just 2,500 before leaving office. “When I became President, I faced a choice—follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our Forces and our allies’ Forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict.”
Biden concluded that his is now the fourth American presidency to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. “I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth,” he said.
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