A former Trump administration official said Thursday evening that the Biden administration’s decision to stick with the US’ 2020 agreement with the Taliban is “why we are where we are now” and that the US has “literally pulled the rug out from under the Afghans.”
“The Biden administration had an opportunity to withdraw from the agreement. They could have reevaluated it and renegotiated it and taken a different path on Afghanistan,” Lisa Curtis, the former deputy assistant to former President Donald Trump and the former senior director for South and Central Asia on the National Security Council, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on “Cuomo Prime Time.”
“But the Biden administration chose to stick with it. So, yeah. This is why we are where we are now. Now, it is also true that the pullout was extremely abrupt. We pulled out 16,000 contractors all at once. These are contractors that helped maintain the equipment for the Afghans. They helped keep air assets in the air. So, we literally pulled the rug out from under the Afghans. And we sort of played into the Taliban strategy,” she continued.
The Trump administration’s agreement between the Taliban and the US has come under fresh scrutiny in recent days after Afghanistan’s civilian government in Kabul fell to Taliban fighters this weekend, almost two decades after they were driven from the city by US troops.
After years of negotiations, the Taliban and the Trump administration finally signed a peace deal in 2020. The US agreed to withdraw troops and release some 5,000 Taliban prisoners, while the Taliban agreed to take steps to prevent any group or individual, including al Qaeda, from using Afghanistan to threaten the security of the US or its allies.
But the deal didn’t bring about peace.
Following the agreement, violence in Afghanistan grew to its highest levels in two decades and the Taliban increased their control of wider swaths of the country. By June of this year, the Taliban contested or controlled an estimated 50% to 70% of Afghan territory outside of urban centers, according to a United Nations Security Council report.
Although Afghan security forces were well funded and well equipped, they put up little resistance as Taliban militants seized much of the country following the withdrawal of US troops beginning in early July.
In his first public comments since the Taliban solidified control of Kabul, President Joe Biden on Monday laid blame on the Afghan security forces’ unwillingness to fight and the decisions of previous administrations – including the Trump administration – while failing to directly address the chaos unfolding on his watch.
Now, the US military is increasing the pace of evacuations to help Afghans and US citizens escape Afghanistan, the Pentagon said Thursday, but it is still not filling flights to capacity despite a directive from Biden that he doesn’t want to see any empty seats on planes leaving Kabul.