Top generals say Trump's Taliban deal hurt Afghan troop morale – Business Insider
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Two top US generals testified before Congress on Tuesday that the Trump administration’s deal with the Taliban affected the morale and performance of Afghan forces.
Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the highest-ranking US general, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that Afghan forces lost its will and that it is his assessment that the Doha agreement “did affect the morale of the Afghan security forces.”
Commander of US Central Command Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the top US general in the Middle East, went further, saying that the agreement with the Taliban signed in February 2020 “did negatively affect the performance of the Afghan forces in particular by some of the actions the government of Afghanistan was required to take as part of that agreement.”
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also said in the same hearing that the Doha agreement “severely impacted the morale of the military.”
The Doha agreement established a timeline and framework for the US to withdraw from Afghanistan. It excluded the Afghan government from the talks and called for the Taliban to reduce its attacks against the government and civilians, a clause the Biden administration said it had violated. Still, President Joe Biden moved forward with implementing the agreement on a delayed timetable.
US allies and partners as well have also been deeply critical of the deal.
Gen. Sami Sadat, a three-star Afghan general who led the 215 Maiwand Corps, acknowledged in a New York Times op-ed last month that it is true that the Afghan forces, as President Joe Biden and others have said, lost the will to fight but argued there is more to it than that.
“We were betrayed by politics and presidents,” he wrote, at one point specifically stating that the Doha agreement “doomed us” by putting “an expiration date on American interest in the region,” which emboldened the insurgent forces.”
“They could sense victory and knew it was just a matter of waiting out the Americans,” the general said. He also criticized Biden for upholding the deal and moving ahead with a withdrawal that was not based on conditions on the ground.
The British defense secretary, days before that op-ed came out, raised similar concerns in an interview with Sky News, a British media outlet.
“At the time of the Trump deal with, obviously, the Taliban, I felt that that was a mistake to have done it that way,” Ben Wallace said. “That, we’ll all, as an international community, probably pay the consequences of that.”
“I think that deal that was done in Doha was a rotten deal,” the secretary said.
“It told a Taliban that wasn’t winning that they were winning, and it undermined the government of Afghanistan, and now we’re in this position where the Taliban have clearly the momentum across the country,” he said as the Taliban swept across Afghanistan.
Commenting on the collapse of the Afghan security forces, Milley said Tuesday that while “many units did fight at the very end,” the “vast majority put their weapons down and melted away.”
An Afghan special forces officer last month told The Washington Post that Trump’s withdrawal deal demoralized Afghan troops and made a Taliban takeover appear inevitable. “The day the deal was signed we saw the change. Everyone was just looking out for himself,” the officer said.
Republicans have consistently blamed Biden for the disaster that unfolded in Afghanistan even though Trump set the stage for the pullout and reduced the number of US troops in Afghanistan significantly.
That said, there’s been bipartisan criticism of Biden’s handling of the withdrawal — particularly leaving Americans and Afghan allies behind. The withdrawal coincided with the Taliban takeover, the deadliest day for US troops in a decade, and a US drone strike that killed 10 Afghan civilians (including seven children).
The Biden administration has acknowledged it was caught off guard by the rapid pace at which the Taliban regained control of the country.
The US military and intelligence community repeatedly warned that the Afghan military would struggle to keep the Taliban at bay following the withdrawal of American forces. But Biden and his top advisors have maintained that no one predicted how quickly the militants would overcome the US-backed government and march into Kabul.