Pence says Trump would have kept US troops in Afghanistan despite Doha deal

Former Vice President Mike Pence said the Trump administration would probably have kept thousands of US troops in Afghanistan, despite a withdrawal agreement made with the Taliban in 2020.

In an interview with CBS on Sunday, Pence, who is running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, said: “Candidly, it was always my belief that it would be prudent to keep a couple of thousand American forces there to support our efforts against terrorist elements, both in Afghanistan and in the region.”

“I think we ultimately would have done that,” he said. “Just as the president announced — the former president announced — we were pulling troops out of Syria. … Ultimately there’s still American forces in Syria today. I think we would have landed in that place.”

According to the Doha deal, the US agreed to a conditions-based withdrawal of all remaining forces from Afghanistan by May 2021 if the Taliban lived up to its own commitments.

Pence said however, that the Taliban had breached those terms and as such, the US was not obliged to honor the deal. “When the Taliban broke the deal and moved into Mazar-e-Sharif and Joe Biden did nothing, that set into motion the catastrophe that became Afghanistan and the heartbreaking end to 20 years of conflict.”

He also said he does not believe the Trump administration bears responsibility for the chaos during the evacuation process in August 2021 and said: “I know what the deal was that was negotiated with the Taliban. It was made very clear. I was in the room when President Trump told the leader of the Taliban, said, ‘Look, you’re going to have to cooperate with the Afghan government. You don’t harbor terrorists. And you don’t harm any American soldiers,'” Pence said.

“We went 18 months without a single American casualty to the day at that Kabul airport that we lost 13 brave American service members,” he said referring to a suicide bombing that also killed at least 170 Afghanistan nationals. “The blame for what happened here falls squarely on the current commander in chief.”

He did say that he thinks “the disastrous withdrawal in Afghanistan … emboldened the enemies of freedom around the world.”

Pence went on to say: “I will tell you with deep conviction that that disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan would never have happened under our administration, because we would have held the Taliban to the deal. And I believe at the end of the day, Afghanistan would be a much different place today. And frankly, our- our- our security and our long-term interests would be far better off. No whitewash from the Pentagon is going to change that. The responsibility for that disastrous withdrawal falls squarely on President Joe Biden and the American people know it.”