Let’s keep it simple. My mission with respect to terror in Afghanistan as secretary of state in the Trump administration had just two objectives.
First, reduce the threat from radical Islamic terror in that country and make sure that we do all we can to prevent a repeat of the events, now almost exactly 20 years ago, that killed 3,000 people in the United States. Second, get our brave young soldiers, airmen and Marines home and focus on terror all around the world and the great power struggle emanating from China. That is all.
This began with clear, direct meetings with the Taliban laying down the conditions that would have to be met for the final departure of all Americans. I worked to negotiate those understandings.
We didn’t trust Mullah Barader, the Taliban lead negotiator and his bosses. We didn’t have to as we made clear the price that would be paid if they violated our rigid boundaries. We didn’t beg the Taliban. Instead, from President Trump on down. we communicated the price that would be paid for their bad behavior.
From Feb. 29, 2020, the day we signed our first agreement with the Taliban, not a single American was killed by them. Not one. Today, the Biden administration is reportedly pleading with the Taliban not to kill our diplomats as they depart. It’s not simply weak, it’s dangerous.
Our model to keep Americans safe was deterrence – put an American at risk, we will come to your village and find you and your entire unit and make it a very bad day until you beg us to stop. Think Quassem Soleimani.
A strategy this substantial depends on planning and execution. We had begun not only an orderly military reduction in risk, but had begun to reduce the number of diplomats in our embassy in Kabul as well. All to reduce risk. We had a plan and we were determined to execute it to achieve the twin goals that the president had set for us.
In contrasts, it appears Team Biden may not have planned adequately. They look panicked. This will embolden the Taliban and encourage Al Qaeda.
The Biden administration’s sending of over 3,000 American troops back into Afghanistan is a result of poor planning and poor leadership in attempting to execute an operation that had been set up for success by the Trump administration.
I am confident that our military understands the mission set: to protect the homeland from an attack emanating out of Afghanistan. But does the administration have the will to impose that mission and bring an orderly end to the war in Afghanistan while maintaining deterrence with the Taliban against attacks on our troops and our embassy while we withdraw?
The threat in Afghanistan is not just from the Taliban. It also emanates from the Taliban allowing safe haven for terrorist groups like Al Qaeda.
When I left office, there were fewer than 200 Al Qaeda remaining inside of Afghanistan. Al Qaeda’s leaders had fled Afghanistan because of American pressure and were not hiding in Iran. We must make sure that the number of radical Islamic terrorist only shrinks.
It is time to reduce our operations in Afghanistan, but it must be done with strength, courage and planning. It is not necessary that an American drawdown leads to a rout. The twin goals can still be achieved, I hope that this administration can pull it off.
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