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The White House has released a 12-page document in which President Joe Biden‘s administration blames the troubled withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in 2021 on the conditions inherited from the Trump administration.
According to John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman, the Biden administration inherited a depleted operation in Afghanistan that severely constrained the President’s choices for how to execute the withdrawal.
The document notes that in 2017, there were over 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan, but after introducing 3,000 more troops to maintain the stalemate, President Trump ordered direct talks with the Taliban without consulting with allies or partners.
This emboldened the Taliban, and in February 2020, the United States and the Taliban reached a deal, known as the Doha Agreement, under which the United States agreed to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by May 2021.
As part of the Doha Agreement, the Taliban agreed to participate in a peace process and refrain from attacking US troops and threatening Afghanistan’s major cities, but only as long as the US remained committed to withdrawing by the agreement’s deadline.
The document reveals that former President Trump pressured the Afghan government to release 5,000 Taliban fighters from prison, including senior war commanders, without securing the release of the only American hostage known to be held by the Taliban.
The report, led by the National Security Council, states that as a result of the Afghanistan experience, US policy has been adjusted to speed up evacuations when safety conditions are deteriorating.
The document further notes that in his last 11 months in office, Trump ordered a series of drawdowns of US troops, and by September 2020, the number of US troops in Afghanistan was reduced to 4,500.
The statement reveals that on September 28, 2021, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Milley testified that he had received an unclassified signed order directing the US military to withdraw all forces from Afghanistan no later than January 15, 2021. However, a week later, that order was rescinded and replaced with one to draw down to 2,500 troops by the same date.
The report states that during the transition from the Trump administration to the Biden administration, the outgoing administrations provided no plans for how to conduct the final withdrawal or to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies. When President Biden took office on January 20, 2021, the Taliban were in the strongest military position they had been in since 2001, controlling or contesting nearly half of the country.
The article notes that Republicans in Congress have criticized the Afghanistan withdrawal, focusing on the deaths of 13 service members in a suicide bombing at Kabul‘s airport, which also killed more than 100 Afghans.
On August 31, 2021, the US completed its military withdrawal from Afghanistan after a chaotic airlift that left behind thousands of Afghans and hundreds of US citizens still seeking an escape from Taliban rule.