Few people seem impressed with President Biden's withdrawal from Afghanistan, a sooner-than-expected military-run airlift operation from Kabul's civilian airport. Biden says his options were limited by a February 2020 peace treaty former President Donald Trump's team signed with the Taliban in Doha requiring all U.S. forces to exit Afghanistan by May 1.
Trump, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and former Vice President Mike Pence have all said this week that if Biden followed Trump's Doha agreement better, Afghanistan wouldn't be such a mess. But they can't quite agree on why that's true, and few other high-ranking Trump national security officials seem to agree with them.
Pompeo told Fox News Sunday "we would have demanded that the Taliban actually deliver on the conditions that we laid out in the agreement," including engaging "in meaningful power-sharing agreement" talks, "before we completed our requirement to fully withdraw." ("The Taliban have not violated any of the written conditions of the four-page agreement signed in Doha," The New York Times notes.)
On the other hand, Trump's first national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said Pompeo "signed a surrender agreement with the Taliban" and traced Afghanistan's collapse "back to the capitulation agreement of 2020." Lisa Curtis, an Afghanistan expert on Trump's National Security Council, told The Associated Press "the Doha agreement was a very weak agreement" that gave the Taliban too much — including 5,000 released prisoners — and seriously weakened the Afghan government.
Trump's defense secretary during the Taliban negotiations, Mark Esper, told CNN Wednesday that Trump "undermined" his own deal by publicly pushing to withdraw all U.S. troops even if the Taliban didn't live up to its side of the treaty. Christopher Miller, Esper's successor, told Defense One that Trump never planned to withdraw U.S. troops and considered the treaty a "play" to get Afghanistan's president to negotiate a power-sharing deal with the Taliban.
"In many ways, this is an overdue conversation," Aaron Blake writes at The Washington Post. "Trump's negotiations with the Taliban weren't huge news outside foreign policy circles because the war wasn't front-of-mind at the time," mostly. Still, he said, "it's striking" that so many "people who served in high-ranking foreign policy roles in the Trump administration seem to recognize the rise of the Taliban isn't going to make Trump's decision look like a great idea."