On Fox News Sunday this weekend, host Chris Wallace questioned former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who served in the Trump administration, over the Trump team providing what Wallace called “legitimacy” to the Taliban. As the Biden administration has moved forward with the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan this month, the Taliban has swiftly taken over city after city across the country, and on Sunday, the news emerged that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had left Afghanistan. As Wallace pointed out, Pompeo himself essentially praised the Taliban at one point, and a deal that the Trump administration struck to leave Afghanistan involved the Taliban — and not the Afghan government.
Combined, these actions provided what Wallace called “legitimacy” to the Taliban. Back around the time of the deal that the Trump administration struck with the group last year, Trump himself essentially uplifted the group, saying that he “really” believed that the Taliban “wants to do something to show we’re not all wasting time.” On Fox this Sunday, Pompeo insisted that if he and Trump were still in power, then the Taliban “would have understood that there were real costs to pay if there were plots against the United States of America” — but reality shows that Trump wasn’t exactly some kind of adept military leader in office.
Wallace pointed out that some have said that the Trump administration’s negotiations with the Taliban without directly involving the Afghan government were “hugely demoralizing and led inevitably to where we are today.” Pompeo smugly replied as follows:
‘Yeah, Chris, that’s just simply not true. Go read the deal. Go read the conditions that were built into the deal. I was in the room. I was at the center of working to deliver that. The Afghans were in the room. We had the Afghans all in the room for the [first] time in 20 years, we had Afghan leaders — not just the corrupt leader Ghani. I mean, think about President Ghani. He spent all of his time lobbying Washington, D.C., Republicans and military leaders… If he’d have spent that time building out friends and coalitions and working with the Taliban himself, we could have gotten to reconciliation.’
So Pompeo’s answer is to gloss over the seriousness of not involving the Afghan government in the actual negotiations? The point isn’t whether they were in the same place as Taliban leaders — the point is whether they were a part of the final agreement, and they were not.
Wallace followed up with the following:
‘You were the first American Secretary of State to ever meet with the Taliban, and you talked about how they had agreed to join us in the fight against terrorism… Do you regret giving the Taliban that legitimacy? Do you regret pressing the Afghan government to release 5,000 prisoners, which they did, some of whom are now back on the battlefield fighting with the Taliban?’
Pompeo replied as follows:
‘You make peace with your enemies… We never trusted the Taliban… We made abundantly clear if they did not live up to that piece of paper, to the words that they had put on the ground, we weren’t going to allow them to just walk away from any deal that they’d struck. We were going to go crush them… We didn’t take the word of the Taliban; we watched their actions on the ground. When they did the right thing and they helped us against terror, that was all good, and when they didn’t, we crushed them.’
The problem is, however, that no matter the Trump administration’s supposed semi-private perspectives, Pompeo himself (alongside Trump) publicly uplifted the Taliban in the context of the fight against al Qaeda. Watch Pompeo’s remarks on Fox below: