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Political Editors / August 18, 2021

In Brief: The Afghanistan Accomplice

The debacle in Afghanistan belongs to Biden. But the previous president bears some blame.

Andrew McCarthy has been a straight shooter regarding Donald Trump and his legacy, so when he offers analysis, it’s always worthwhile. And he’s not kind regarding Trump’s part in Joe Biden’s Afghanistan catastrophe.

The debacle in Afghanistan — the U.S. surrender, the deadly chaos that has followed, the withdrawal without any feasible plan to prevent the reemergence of jihadist safe havens (actually, the proliferation beyond the havens that already exist) — belongs to Biden. He is the commander in chief, he could have prevented it, he insisted that it wasn’t happening even as it was washing over him, and he has shamed our country as it has not been shamed since the end of the Vietnam War nearly a half-century ago.

That said, to hear former Trump officials and Trump apologists at the RNC rip into Biden as if the former president’s fingerprints and nauseating “forever war” drivel were not all over this debacle is hard to take.

McCarthy recalls the practice of both the Obama and Trump administrations regarding prisoner releases, which is always a priority of the jihadis. That includes “the leader of the Taliban, Abdul Ghani Baradar, who took control of Afghanistan on Sunday.” He then revisits Trump’s efforts at negotiating with the Taliban:

The Taliban are a terrorist organization. And not just any terrorist organization — they are the terrorists who gave sanctuary to al-Qaeda when it publicly declared war against the United States; when it bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (killing over 200 people); when it struck and nearly sank a naval destroyer, the USS Cole (killing 17 U.S. sailors); and when it mass-murdered nearly 3,000 Americans in the 9/11 attacks.

The United States tells the world that it does not negotiate with terrorists. But the Trump administration, just like Republican and Democratic administrations before it, pretended the Taliban were not a terrorist organization so that it could carry out talks, mouthing the familiar claptrap about how “you make peace with your enemies, not your friends” — quite a departure from, “You’re either with us or with the terrorists.”

The Trump-Taliban agreement is disgraceful.

To begin with, the Trump administration negotiated directly with the Taliban. The U.S.-backed Afghan regime may have been formally, physically ousted from power on Biden’s watch Sunday, but it was effectively nullified when the Trump administration, in the former president’s haste to pull out regardless of the security costs, cut the regime out of his negotiations with the Taliban. That is why the Trump administration had to squeeze the (now-departed) government in Kabul to release the 5,000 prisoners: The regime was not part of the agreement and was fighting for its survival against the Taliban that would be fortified by the jailbreak.

He goes on to explain how the Trump administration called the Taliban by its preferred name — “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” — while taking on the laughable phrase “which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban,” all while purposefully excluding the government we ostensibly supported from negotiations, and all while the Taliban was violating agreements even during negotiations.

“History,” McCarthy concludes, “will hold President Biden to account as it should, but it will not forget that President Trump was an enthusiastic accomplice — no matter how hard he and his allies strain to distance themselves from the unfolding calamity.”

Read the whole thing here.

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