‘It was preordained’: State Department blames Trump for US withdrawal from Afghanistan

‘It was preordained’: State Department blames Trump for US withdrawal from Afghanistan
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President Joe Biden had no “viable option” other than to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan, according to a senior State Department official who suggested that former President Donald Trump’s team tied their hands with a flawed agreement with the Taliban.

“It was preordained,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters while defending the withdrawal. “It’s a deal that this administration probably would not have made, certainly not in all the detail. But it’s the deal that we inherited.”

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Taliban forces have swept across much of Afghanistan in the months since Biden announced that he would order U.S. troops to leave the country, culminating in the conquest of several provincial capitals since Friday. Allied officials have described Biden’s decision as “shock therapy,” but Price suggested that it should have surprised no one, given that the Trump administration struck a deal that called for the withdrawal of American forces by May 1.

“The idea that the United States could have maintained a significant military presence in Afghanistan ... that was just not tenable,” Price maintained. “It was not in the cards, because according to that agreement that was negotiated by the United States, not this administration, but the previous one, if our forces remain there in great numbers after May 1, they could have become the targets of violence.”

The U.S.-Taliban agreement was negotiated by State Department special representative Zalmay Khalilzad, one of the rare Trump appointees to keep his job when Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken took office. That deal outlined a plan for a two-phase withdrawal of U.S. forces, in exchange for the Taliban’s pledge to cut ties with terrorist groups that threaten the United States and U.S. allies and the launch of peace talks between the militants and the U.S.-backed government in Kabul.

“As intra-Afghan negotiations progress, the United States will watch the Taliban's actions closely to judge whether their efforts towards peace are in good faith,” then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper said during a visit to Kabul on the day the agreement was signed. “Should the Taliban fail to honor their commitments, they will forfeit their chance to sit with fellow Afghans and deliberate on the future of their country. Moreover, the United States would not hesitate to nullify the agreement.”

Price demurred repeatedly when asked if the Taliban is keeping their end of the bargain — “levels of violence are too high,” he repeated throughout the briefing — and argued that the Taliban’s decision not to attack U.S. forces at least vindicates their efforts to broker a deal.

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“I think there's also a misconception that in order for negotiations, peace negotiations, to take place, there is the requirement that there be peace on the ground,” Price said. “In fact, if you look back through history, very rarely have peace negotiations taken place when peace is present on the ground. What we're seeing is levels of violence that are of grave concern. They're certainly not within the spirit of the U.S.-Taliban agreement. But we know that diplomacy is the only way that we are ever going to achieve a durable solution.”

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Tags: News, Foreign Policy, National Security, Joe Biden, Afghanistan, War in Afghanistan, Taliban, State Department

Original Author: Joel Gehrke

Original Location: ‘It was preordained’: State Department blames Trump for US withdrawal from Afghanistan

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