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Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates criticizes Biden over Afghan withdrawal

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On Sunday’s 60 Minutes, former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, sat down with Anderson Cooper and described being physically ill upon seeing the US’s withdrawal from Afghanistan back in August.

It was really tough. For a few days there, I actually wasn't feeling very well. And I realized, it was because of what was happening in kabul. And I was just so low about the way it had ended,” Gates said. “The other feeling that I had was that it probably did not need to have turned out that way.”

And when it comes to where blame should be assessed for the chaos surrounding the withdrawal, Gates said that there is plenty of blame to go around, including both the current and former presidents.

“Certainly the military considers withdrawal the most dangerous part of an operation. But they really had a lot of time to plan. Beginning with the deal that President Trump cut with the Taliban. So that was in February of 2020,” Gates said. “Once president Biden reaffirmed that there was going to be a firm deadline date, that's the point at which I think they should have begun bringing those people out.”

Gates, who oversaw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2006 to 2011, blames himself in part for not properly building up the Afghan military over the years, making things too sophisticated and logistical, similar to the US military but very different from the Taliban. But he said that, ultimately, mismanagement of the timeline and not anticipating the fall-out were the biggest mistakes.

“You'd have to be pretty naïve not to assume things were going to go downhill once that withdrawal was complete,” Gates said, adding that he “absolutely” thinks Trump and Biden share responsibility.

And while Gates, who’s always considered himself a republican, has been on the same page with Biden over the years when it comes to dealings with other foreign powers like Russia and China, he said they’ve never seen eye-to-eye on Afghanistan. And when asked point-blank by Cooper if he thinks Biden made a mistake in Afghanistan, Gates said, “yes.”

Video Transcript

ROBERT GATES: For a few days there, I actually wasn't feeling very well. And I realized it was because of what was happening in Kabul. And I was just so low about the way it had ended.

KYLIE MAR: Former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, was on 60 Minutes Sunday where he described being physically ill upon seeing the US's withdrawal from Afghanistan in August and said that there is plenty of blame to go around.

ROBERT GATES: Beginning with the deal that President Trump cut with the Taliban. So that was in February of 2020. Once President Biden reaffirmed that there was going to be a firm deadline date, that's the point at which I think they should have begun bringing those people out.

KYLIE MAR: Gates, who oversaw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2006 to 2011, blames himself in part for not properly building up the Afghan military but said that ultimately, mismanagement of the timeline and not anticipating the fallout were the biggest mistakes.

ROBERT GATES: You'd have to be pretty naive not to assume things were going to go downhill once that withdrawal was complete.

KYLIE MAR: So the former president and President Biden both share some responsibility in this?

ROBERT GATES: Absolutely.

KYLIE MAR: And while Gates, who's always considered himself a Republican, has been on the same page with Biden over the years when it comes to our dealings with other foreign powers like Russia and China, he said they've never seen eye to eye on Afghanistan.

ANDERSON COOPER: You think he made a mistake in Afghanistan in the way he handled the withdrawal?

KYLIE MAR: Yes.

ANDERSON COOPER: Do you think he believes he made a mistake?

KYLIE MAR: I've worked for eight presidents, Anderson. I've never encountered a single one of whoever said, well, I really blew that one.

ANDERSON COOPER: Really?

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