‘We defeated ourselves’: Trump’s national security adviser says Pompeo signed ‘surrender agreement’ with Taliban

Former Trump administration officials are seeking to distance themselves from Taliban peace deal

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Wednesday 25 August 2021 08:36 BST

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HR McMaster, one of Donald Trump’s former national security advisers, has condemned the deal struck with the Taliban during the previous administration as a “surrender agreement”.

“Our secretary of state [Mike Pompeo] signed a surrender agreement with the Taliban,” Mr McMaster said on Bari Weiss’ podcast Honestly.

“This collapse goes back to the capitulation agreement of 2020. The Taliban didn’t defeat us. We defeated ourselves.”

Mr McMaster has hit out at both the Trump and Biden administrations for their handling of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, but he has long been critical of the agreement signed during his former boss’s term in office.

The retired US Army lieutenant general is one of many former senior Trump officials who have sought to distance themselves from the Taliban peace deal that was signed in February 2020, as chaos gripped the capital Kabul over the past week.

In light of the tumult on the ground in Afghanistan, new scrutiny is being applied to the terms agreed to in the deal as it laid out the US military withdrawal and the Taliban subsequently sweeping across the country and taking Kabul.

Originally, the Trump administration agreed to withdraw from the country by 1 May, if the Taliban negotiated a peace agreement with the Afghan government and promised to prevent terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State from using the country as a base.

When elected president, Joe Biden said he had to follow through with the agreement or risk new conflicts with the Taliban, which might have required an additional troop surge into Afghanistan.

However, by pushing back the withdrawal date to 31 August, the president showed there was some room for manoeuvre under the terms of the agreement.

Mr Biden blamed the Trump administration for the chaos that ensued this week saying that his predecessor had emboldened the Taliban and left the group “in the strongest position militarily since 2001”.

The president has said that he would ultimately have withdrawn all troops from Afghanistan even if no deal had already been struck with the Taliban. Mr Biden said that he saw no way to complete a withdrawal “without chaos ensuing”.

John Bolton, another of Mr Trump’s former National Security Advisers, told CNN: “Had Trump been re-elected, he’d be doing the same thing. On this question of withdrawal from Afghanistan, Trump and Biden are like Tweedledee and Tweedledum.”

Mr Pompeo, who met with Taliban officials in person at the signing ceremony of the agreement in Doha in September 2020 while secretary of state, told Fox News the administration never trusted the group and does not believe the negotiations legitimised them.

He insists that the agreement was conditions-based and that the US would have retaliated against the militant group if it did not follow through with its guarantees.

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