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Former Nat. Sec. Adviser Whacks Trump's Botched Negotiation With Taliban

Ben Rhodes explains what the Trump administration handed Biden in their rush to both claim responsibility for withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan and cut a peace deal with the Taliban.
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Former Nat. Security Adviser Ben Rhodes explains what the Trump administration handed Biden in their rush to both claim responsibility for withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan and cut a peace deal with the Taliban.

CAPEHART: Ben, let me bring you into the conversation to get your perspective, and also to pick up on something that I asked in the previous hour, and that Congresswoman Harmon just talked about, and that is the fact that the Afghan government was cut out of the negotiations during the Trump administration and thereby sapping the morale of not just the folks within the government, but within the Afghan forces.

I would love to get your perspective on that in particular, but also on what is happening in Afghanistan right now.

RHODES: Yeah Johnathan, first of all, Peter is right in the sense that this is an indictment I think of 20 years of an effort that clearly did not produce a government or Afghan security forces with any capacity to fight back, or will to fight back against the Taliban once the United States withdrew. That includes the Obama administration under which I served. So I want to be very clear about the fact that we all need to take a lesson from this.

I think Jonathan that there are just limits to what the United States can do to kind of engineer events and shape countries that are so distant from us, as Afghanistan is. We went in for a counter-terrorism purpose. It morphed into a nation building purpose and frankly it may be that there was never a particular strategy or formula that was going to work in a place that is so different from the United States.

But to your specific question though, Donald Trump clearly was in this huge rush to both claim responsibility for withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan, and also weirdly to have some kind of peace deal with the Taliban.

And you will even remember he was talking about inviting them to Camp David for some big ceremony around the 9/11 anniversary, like that is a thing that actually happened. And the reality is efforts at diplomacy over the years were always predicated under successive administrations on the Afghan government being in the lead in any negotiation with the Taliban.

You don't negotiate your own exit with the adversary of the government that you are supporting. And that's what the Trump administration did. They cut a deal with the Taliban that excluded the Afghan government, effectively again demoralizing them and making them feel like we were simply leaving them holding the bag entirely.

And that, I think that's the one opportunity to try to have a diplomatic resolution that could have mitigated at least some of the damage and could have led to some more form of unity government and could have negotiated protections for women in some regards. That was what was absent in that so-called deal with the Taliban.

That won't stop Republicans or their allies in the media from trying to pin this all on Biden.

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