Pence: Trump Supported US Troops in Afghanistan, Denies Responsibility for Chaotic Withdrawal
Former Vice President Mike Pence revealed that former President Donald Trump would have maintained a significant U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, contrary to their 2020 peace agreement with the Taliban. The agreement, signed in February 2020, outlined a plan for the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops within 14 months, as long as the Taliban upheld its commitment to refrain from attacking the United States or its allies.
During an interview on CBS News' "Face the Nation," host Margaret Brennan highlighted a recent assessment conducted by the U.S. State Department under President Joe Biden's administration. The report attributed blame to both Biden and Trump for the tumultuous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. Brennan questioned Pence about whether the Trump administration should accept some responsibility. Pence indicated that if they were still in power during the final stages of the withdrawal, the Trump administration would have maintained troops in Afghanistan and pursued an alternative course of action.
Pence firmly placed the blame for the situation on the current commander-in-chief, President Joe Biden. He argued that although the former president intended to withdraw troops, the Taliban's violation of the agreement by capturing Mazar-i-Sharif, coupled with Biden's lack of decisive action, set in motion the catastrophic chain of events that unfolded in Afghanistan. Pence emphasized that the responsibility for the consequences ultimately lies with the current administration.
Brennan questioned Pence about whether he intended to retain troops in Afghanistan beyond the timeframe outlined in the 2020 agreement. In response, Pence candidly stated that he had always believed it would be wise to keep a couple of thousand American forces in the region. He emphasized that such a presence would have provided crucial support for counterterrorism efforts, both within Afghanistan and the broader region.
During the Trump administration, the United States had less than 10,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan when the peace deal with the Taliban was reached. By the end of Trump's tenure, this number had decreased to approximately 2,500. Originally, Trump's plan aimed to complete the full withdrawal of U.S. troops by May 2021. However, President Joe Biden later extended the deadline to September 11, 2021.
Pence's comments shed light on his position regarding the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. While acknowledging the importance of peace negotiations, he argued for the retention of a limited force to effectively combat terrorist elements in the region. These statements highlight the ongoing debate surrounding America's role in Afghanistan and its impact on regional stability and national security.
Pence implied that had the Trump administration remained in power, the U.S. mission in Afghanistan might have unfolded similarly to Trump's 2019 attempt to withdraw troops from Syria. During Trump's efforts to wind down the U.S. military presence in Syria, clashes erupted between U.S.-backed Kurds and Turkey, a member of NATO. Pence played a role in brokering a ceasefire between the Turkish and Kurdish forces, leading to a partial withdrawal of American troops instead of a complete exit.
Referring to Trump's decision to withdraw troops from Syria, Pence stated,
“Just as the former president announced we were pulling troops out of Syria, you remember, I was sent to Turkey to negotiate a ceasefire and ultimately there’s still American forces in Syria today. I think we would have landed in that place,” Pence said Sunday. “I will tell you with deep conviction that that disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan would never have happened under our administration because we would have held the Taliban to the deal.”