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Fact check: Trump officials attempt to rewrite their history in Afghanistan


But some of the criticisms of former Trump administration officials have strayed from the truth.

In public statements last week, former Vice President Mike Pence, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and former Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller all criticized Biden in one way or another. another for the chaos that unfolded in Afghanistan this month. While some of these criticisms have been correct, much of it has wrongly attempted to rewrite the Trump administration’s own history on Afghanistan – denouncing Biden while deceptively omitting the actions taken by Trump and his administration.

Here is a fact check of their claims.

Mike Pence says US-Taliban peace deal has led to unusual “stability” in Afghanistan

On Tuesday, former Vice President Mike Pence released a editorial in the Wall Street Journal which blamed the Biden administration alone for the current situation in Afghanistan.
Pence went so far as to claim that the Trump administration February 2020 Peace Agreement the Taliban “immediately brought stability to Afghanistan unprecedented in decades.”

“For the past 18 months, the United States has suffered no combat casualties there. By the time we left office, the Afghan government and the Taliban each controlled their respective territories, neither one nor the other. another was carrying out major offensives, and America had only 2,500 US troops in the country – the smallest military presence since the war began in 2001, “Pence wrote.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also claims this week, on Twitter and in an interview on Fox Business, that the Trump administration “has kept the country stable.”
Facts first: There is no legitimate argument that Afghanistan experienced anything resembling “stability” after the US deal with the Taliban. While Pence is correct that no other American troops were killed in action after the deal, the war continued to rage, and large number of Afghan soldiers and civilians continued to be killed or injured.
The Inspector General of the Ministry of Defense reported that “the Taliban further intensified the violence” after the signing of the agreement. The United Nations reported that while “there has been a decline in the number of documented civilian casualties in the first nine months” of 2020, “in contrast, the last three months of the year marked an unusual increase in the number of civilian casualties – a critical indicator of the nature of the conflict The year ended with an increased focus on levels of violence and diminished hopes for lasting peace.

“The anguish caused by the armed conflict has continued to be pervasive and felt in cities and rural areas by people of all ages, genders, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds,” the UN said in its annual report. on the war – in which she noted that civilian casualties were up 45% in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to the fourth quarter of 2019.

The total number of Afghan civilian casualties recorded by the UN for 2020, 8,820, was the lowest since 2013 – but it was still higher than in any of the five years between 2009 and 2013. (The UN has started this systematic surveillance in 2009; actual war losses are often higher than documented losses.) decades ”.

“There was stability on the US military bases, not in the country,” said Sher Jan Ahmadzai, director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Ahmadzai also argued that Trump’s US-Taliban deal “paved the way for further potential instability by undermining the legitimacy of the very government that President Trump and previous administrations supported.”

“A momentary pause in violence does not constitute meaningful political stability,” said Benjamin hopkins, an expert on Afghanistan and professor of history and international affairs at George Washington University, adding that the agreement “has not solved any of the fundamental problems facing the internal conflict in Afghanistan.”

Pundits also took issue with other parts of Pence’s editorial, including its headline: “Mike Pence: Biden Broke Our Deal with the Taliban.”

In the article, Pence argued that, under Trump, “the Taliban leadership understood that the consequences of violating the agreement would be swift and severe.” But experts on Afghanistan say the Taliban never kept their commitments in the deal.

“The Taliban were disregarding the part of the Doha deal that called on them to sever ties with al-Qaeda – intelligence reports have shown that the Taliban continue to maintain these links,” noted Madiha Afzal, foreign policy researcher at the Brookings Institution think tank.

Nikki Haley criticizes talks with the Taliban

After the White House announced on Wednesday that the Taliban would allow “safe passage” for Afghan civilians traveling to the capital’s airport, Nikki Haley, Trump’s former US ambassador to the United Nations, criticized the administration Biden for relying on the Taliban’s word.
“To have our generals say that they depend on diplomacy with the Taliban is an incredible scenario,” Haley said. tweeted. “Negotiating with the Taliban is like dealing with the devil.

Facts first: Haley did not mention that the Trump administration itself negotiated with the Taliban – and that she herself spoke favorably about those peace negotiations while serving in the administration.

“We are seeing that we are closer to talks with the Taliban and to the peace process than we have seen before,” Haley said. noted on January 17, 2018, at the UN in New York. Haley added that Afghan officials were “confident that the Taliban will come to the table” and that “US policy on Afghanistan is working.”
In the summer of 2018, the Trump administration noted he was ready to start negotiations with the Taliban and, after much uproar, signed the February 2020 deal with the Taliban for the United States to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by early May 2021. Haley resigned her post in administration in October 2018.
Despite continued Taliban attacks and non-compliance with areas of the agreement, the United States continued to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. On January 15, days before Biden’s inauguration, Trump’s acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller announcement that American forces had reached the lowest levels in the country since the start of the war.

“The level of US forces in Afghanistan has reached 2,500. Led by President Trump,” Miller’s statement said, “and as I announced on November 17, this withdrawal brings US forces in the country to their own. lowest level since 2001.

We do not dispute Haley’s negative assessment of the Taliban. However, his tweet completely ignored the Trump administration’s own negotiations and previous praise for the strategy.

Christopher Miller says Trump’s promise of total withdrawal was just a ruse

Christopher Miller, who served as Acting Defense Secretary for less than three months after Trump’s presidency ended, said in an interview with Defense One that Trump’s 2020 deal with the Taliban to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021 was just a “play,” and Trump actually intended to keep some US troops in Afghanistan for counterterrorism purposes.

Facts first: While we don’t know what Trump may have been discussing in secret with Miller, statements from other administration officials and even Trump himself cast doubt on Miller’s claim. Trump has publicly stated on several occasions, even after leaving office, that his plan is to bring home “all” troops. A former senior Trump administration official told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Miller’s claim was false.

As president, Trump called for full withdrawal by Christmas 2020, even earlier than the May 1 deadline. And as recently as August 12, Trump issued a declaration suggesting he would have implemented the full withdrawal plan had he won the 2020 election, although he claimed it would have been “much more successful” than Biden’s.
In an April 18 statement that has since been deleted from its website, Trump noted“Leaving Afghanistan is a wonderful and positive thing to do. I had planned to step down on May 1, and we should stay as close to that time frame as possible.” And on June 26, Trump pointed out that his administration was responsible for starting the process to bring all the troops back, saying “I started the process. All the troops return home. They couldn’t stop the process. Twenty-one is enough, isn’t it?

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