Republican Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney slammed former President Donald Trump on Sunday, saying he shares responsibility with President Joe Biden for the fall of Afghanistan into the hands of the Taliban.
The House Armed Services committee member and former U.S. State Department official made her comments in a Sunday interview with ABC News’ “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl.
The two discussed the swift takeover of key Afghan cities by the Islamist insurgent group when Karl posed this question:
“You know, ultimately, this is President Biden’s decision. He is the one that has called for this withdrawal, is going forward with it. But this didn’t happen in a vacuum. I mean, it was President Trump that negotiated the agreement with the Taliban to have a complete withdrawal that was supposed to actually happen by May 1. So who bears responsibility?”
“Look, I think, absolutely, President Biden bears responsibility for making the decision,” Cheney said. “But there’s no question that President Trump, his administration, Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo, they also bear very significant responsibility for this.”
The Trump administration “walked down this path of legitimizing the Taliban, of perpetuating this fantasy, telling the American people that the Taliban were a partner for peace,” she said, pointing to some statements the former president made when his administration signed an agreement with the Islamist group in February last year.
“President Trump told us the Taliban was going to fight terror. Secretary Pompeo told us that the Taliban was going to renounce al-Qaida,” Cheney said.
“Today, as we watched, the Taliban, for example, released prisoners across Afghanistan,” she said. “There’s very real concern that they’re not just fighters in those prisons who will join the battle in Afghanistan, but that terrorist groups globally will in fact be fed, you know, new soldiers in their war on terror from those prisons. It’s a devastating set of circumstances.
“But the delegitimization of the Afghan government, the notion in the Trump administration, the suggestion that, at one point, they were saying they were going to invite the Taliban to Camp David,” she said.
“On Sept. 11,” Karl said, referring to when Trump allegedly contemplated inviting the Taliban’s leaders to Camp David three days before the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as reported by The New York Times.
“Yeah,” Cheney said. “I mean, they, they, this disaster certainly began — and look, the notion of, ‘We’re going to end endless wars,’ that campaign slogan, what we’re watching right now in Afghanistan is what happens when America withdraws from the world. So everybody who has been saying, ‘America needs to withdraw, America needs to retreat,’ we are getting a devastating, catastrophic, real-time lesson in what that means.”
“The Trump/Biden calamity unfolding in Afghanistan began with the Trump administration negotiating with terrorists and pretending they were partners for peace and is ending with American surrender as Biden abandons the country to our terrorist enemies,” Cheney said in a Sunday post on Twitter.
The Trump/Biden calamity unfolding in Afghanistan began with the Trump administration negotiating with terrorists and pretending they were partners for peace, and is ending with American surrender as Biden abandons the country to our terrorist enemies. https://t.co/PQ1i5W6zZt
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) August 14, 2021
In an attempt to fulfill a campaign promise of bringing American troops home, the Trump administration signed an agreement with the Taliban in February 2020 in Doha, Qatar.
The government in Kabul, which the U.S. then recognized as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, was not part of this agreement between the Trump administration and the Taliban, who hosted al-Qaida, the terror group that carried out the 9/11 attacks.
The agreement said the U.S. would “withdraw from Afghanistan all military forces of the United States, its allies, and Coalition partners, including all non-diplomatic civilian personnel, private security contractors, trainers, advisors, and supporting services personnel within fourteen (14) months following announcement of this agreement.”
Under the agreement, the withdrawal was guaranteed provided the Taliban did not permit “any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qa’ida, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.”
The agreement said the Trump administration and the Taliban seek “seek positive relations with each other and expect that the relations between the United States and the new post-settlement Afghan Islamic government as determined by the intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations will be positive.”
Even though evidence emerged that the Taliban was flouting its commitments under the deal, with a late May 2020 U.N. report finding the insurgent group to be still supporting al-Qaida, the Trump administration did not change its withdrawal deadline of May 1 this year.
In August 2020, the Kabul government announced the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners after it had been pressured to do so by the Trump administration, according to the Times.
Kabul-based journalist Hikmat Noori, whom I interviewed in June, told me that this event played a major role in the “spike in the violence” in the country as the U.S. began to draw down its military presence in Afghanistan.
After the Biden administration took over, it decided to proceed with the withdrawal despite the Taliban’s demonstrated disregard of the agreement. However, Biden changed the date from May 1 to Sept. 11 before changing his mind and making it Aug. 31.
His administration constantly downplayed the threat of a Taliban takeover and the withdrawal’s possible similarity to the chaotic U.S. departure from Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War.
“There’s going to be no circumstance where you’re going to see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States from Afghanistan.” – Biden pic.twitter.com/JrW5io04Zg
— The Federalist (@FDRLST) August 16, 2021
As the United States began to withdraw its soldiers, the Islamist group kept gaining ground over recent months until it captured all large cities and Kabul by Sunday.
Afghanistan is now under the control of the Taliban as key government officials, including President Ashraf Ghani, fled.
On Monday, the U.S. was still trying to evacuate its embassy staff and Afghans who helped the nation during its war against terrorism for 20 years in Central Asia from the crowded Kabul airport, where civilians were desperately trying to flee the Taliban.
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