Events in Afghanistan continue to change minute to minute. On Sunday, Afghan President Ghani fled the country as the Taliban announced it had begun to enter the capital, Kabul. The situation has been further complicated by the redeployment of 5,000 US military personnel to help evacuate the US embassy.
The rapid deterioration of security in Afghanistan has brought criticism of the Biden administration’s handling of the US withdrawal. What had been predicted as potential what-if months from now has unfolded before the world’s eyes in a matter of weeks: the defeat of the Western-backed Afghan government, and the return of the Taliban.
“This appears to be a mess that’s not only a problem in the short and near run, but to us strategically, it puts America at risk as well,” former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told The Cats Roundtable on Sunday. He made it clear the Taliban takeover was a disaster that Trump’s strategy would have prevented.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has described the withdrawal as an “ordered departure” after the US accomplished its original, post 9/11 mission. But as Biden redeploys 5,000 US troops as Kabul enters panic mode, the success story Blinken and the Biden administration are painting looks strained.
It’s not as if Biden didn’t have the foundation to correctly conduct the withdrawal, Pompeo said. 7 months ago, the Trump administration had charted a path to accomplish the same mission, a mission Pompeo described with twin objectives.
“We believed we had a set of understandings and a path forward for the drawdown and to get our kids home,” he explained. “At the same time, we would never allow a terror attack to emanate from Afghanistan—looks like now they’re having a hard time accomplishing either of those.”
Biden’s objective to have the US completely out of Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks ignored the realities on the ground. In contrast to Trump, Pompeo said Biden had failed to “deliver a reconciliation process” that prevented Afghanistan from returning to an ungovernable state—or worse, back to a safe haven for terrorism. He said Biden’s handling of international affairs as “weak and rudderless” and told The Cats Roundtable US adversaries were reading between the lines.
“Looks like this was a surprise to them,” Pompeo said about the Biden White House, “and there should have been no surprise. If you have a hasty, disorganized drawdown, and you’re not prepared for all of the attendant possibilities, then you’ll end up looking or feeling panicked.”
As Afghanistan falls into disarray, Pompeo shared with The Cats Roundtable it was his and Trump’s sincere resolve to end the US presence there. But as the Biden administration and Blinken’s State Department struggle with the breathtaking Taliban advance, emboldened by Biden’s overtures to damn the circumstances, it’s clear leadership matters.
“The Taliban respected the fact that we would likely follow through,” Pompeo said about his own negotiations as Secretary of State but said now the US lacked “a set of leaders” that could put the iron to the fire. He also urged Americans to look at the big picture, beyond the hyper-focus on Afghanistan.
“We shouldn’t forget, it’s not just Afghanistan,” Pompeo said, adding the US faced terror threats in recent years from Yemen, Iran, and the Philippines.
“With good leadership and the right focus-set of priorities and investments, you can take down that risk substantially,” the former Secretary of State told The Cats Roundtable. “We did that for four years in the Trump administration, I hope that they will get it right.”