The RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) are apoplectic over what’s going on in Afghanistan. But wait! I don’t mean Sen. Mitt Romney, Illinois Rep Adam Kinzinger, or any other Republican who former president Trump has labeled with this acronym. Oh no, I’m referring to Trump’s former secretary of State Mike Pompeo, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, all the Republicans who voted on January 6 against certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory and for sure, Donald Trump. Neither the former president nor his supporters are real Republicans in my book, much less patriotic Americans.
There’s plenty of blame to go around for the chaos in Afghanistan, of course, including some for President Biden’s decisions. But two of the most shocking criticisms of the president came from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Pompeo. Both are former military officers who should know better. Pompeo graduated first in his class at West Point in 1986; Cotton is a decorated veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan during former president George W. Bush’s administration.
Yet, as the Taliban was closing in on the Afghan capital of Kabul on August 14, the far-right Cotton typified the Republican response to this dire situation, “Joe Biden’s ill-planned retreat has now humiliated America and put at risk thousands of Americans left in Kabul,” Cotton said. He added that Biden “must unleash American air power to destroy every Taliban fighter in the vicinity of Kabul until we can save our fellow Americans.”
The following day, Pompeo advocated “crushing” the Taliban surrounding Kabul with American air power in order to, “inflict cost and pain on them.” “This president [Biden] confronted a challenge in Afghanistan – he has utterly failed to protect the American people from this challenge,” he added.
Both of these ex-military men should well know that air power alone could never destroy all Taliban fighters around Kabul, a sprawling city of over 4 million people. As they were uttering their bombing nonsense, the Taliban had almost taken total control of the country and no doubt possessed some heavy weapons that had been abandoned by the Afghan military. The international airport near the city would be the only way out for the remaining Americans and Afghan allies in the surrounding area and it’s likely there weren’t enough U.S. military personnel there to fully protect it.
Unquestionably, massive bombing would have resulted in horrific civilian casualties. And, it would be like trying to subdue a lion with a baseball bat. No doubt, enraged Taliban fighters would have captured every American they could find. Even if they couldn’t overrun the airport, any U.S. evacuation aircraft would likely have taken intense fire from Taliban rocket propelled grenades, heavy machine guns and artillery. I believe the result would have been an incredibly worse catastrophe, with numerous Americans killed or held hostage and few being able to escape.
Why on earth would Pompeo and Cotton have proposed get tough, reckless bombing campaigns? Could it be their 2024 presidential aspirations?
Pompeo’s Afghan blunders, however, go much deeper. As the U.S. secretary of State in 2018, he and former president Trump succeeded in pressuring the Pakistani government to release a Taliban co-founder, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, to negotiate a deal. The bilateral agreement that was signed in February 2020 freed 5,000 captive Taliban fighters from prison and committed to the withdrawal of U.S. military and allied forces within 14 months (by May 2021). In exchange, they got some promises from an untrustworthy enemy.
It’s been reported that Trump even suggested a meeting with Taliban representatives at Camp David and mused about winning a Nobel Peace Prize. Was this deal designed to bolster Trump’s 2020 reelection prospects? Hmm, could be.
Regardless, The Trump/Pompeo agreement not only reduced the American military presence in Afghanistan, it reinforced the Taliban army by thousands of fighters and severely weakened the Afghan government in Kabul. By the time Biden was inaugurated, Afghanistan’s fate was almost sealed, according to many observers. He could either attempt to renegotiate the Trump agreement while rebuilding U.S. forces or carry out its commitments. Neither was a good option for the United States by then. And yes, chaos was probably inevitable under the circumstances Biden inherited, as there remained thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans to be evacuated from this hostile environment.
Still, why hadn’t the Trump administration begun the process of bringing translators and other at-risk Afghan allies to the United States before the U.S. withdrew troops in 2020? Well, last Friday, Olivia Troye, who was a counterterrorism aide to former Vice President Mike Pence, accused former Trump advisor Stephen Miller of organizing xenophobic officials inside the Trump Administration to deny these refugees special immigration visas. If true, this is beyond shocking.
The ongoing humanitarian effort in Afghanistan will playout over the next few weeks and every American should hope and pray that all of our fellow citizens are evacuated from Kabul, along with thousands of our Afghan allies. Still, I believe the way Republicans are politicizing this tragedy – just like they politicized the coronavirus pandemic – is exacerbating an already horrible situation.
And, we can be certain that Republicans will demand intensive investigations of Biden’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan while attempting to impede and downplay the investigations of the vicious January 6 attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters. They have no shame.