John Bolton said Trump 'fully supported' withdrawing from Afghanistan and would have done so if reelected, despite criticizing Biden for the decision

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  • John Bolton said there was no difference between Trump's and Biden's positions on Afghanistan.

  • Bolton was Trump's national security advisor from 2018 to 2019.

  • Trump criticized Biden over Afghanistan, but Bolton said Trump "fully supported" troop withdrawal.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

John Bolton, Donald Trump's former national security advisor, told CNN on Tuesday that there was no difference between Trump's and President Joe Biden's positions on the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, despite Trump's call for Biden to "resign in disgrace" over the crisis.

Trump has been fiercely critical of his successor since Taliban forces quickly captured most of Afghanistan following Biden's decision in April to withdraw remaining US troops from the country.

Bolton, who was the national security advisor from 2018 to 2019, said that despite Trump's criticism of the president, he had actually supported withdrawal himself.

Asked whether the withdrawal was a mistake, Bolton said: "There are two mistakes at work here. The first is the strategic mistake of withdrawing, which Biden made but which Trump fully supported. Had Trump been reelected, he'd be doing the same thing. On this question of withdrawal from Afghanistan, Trump and Biden are like Tweedledee and Tweedledum."

Following chaotic scenes at Kabul's airport this week as Afghans attempted to flee and the US scrambled to evacuate diplomats and citizens, Bolton said Biden was primarily responsible for the handling of the troop withdrawal.

"The second question, though, is did the withdrawal occur in the best possible way? And the answer to that is no," Bolton told CNN. "It's been a catastrophe, and I'm afraid it's only going to get worse.

"I think Biden does bear primary responsibility for that, although you see now fingers being pointed saying Trump didn't leave us with any plans. We'll have to see how that shakes out."

taliban fighters in kabul
Taliban fighters stand outside the interior ministry in Kabul on Sunday. Stringer/Reuters

Trump this week claimed that his administration would have handled the situation better. In April, he called Biden's plan to pull troops from Afghanistan a "wonderful and positive thing to do."

On Monday, he blasted Biden's handling of the withdrawal.

"First Joe Biden surrendered to COVID, and it has come roaring back. Then he surrendered to the Taliban, who has quickly overtaken Afghanistan and destroyed confidence in American power and influence," he said in a statement.

"The outcome in Afghanistan, including the withdrawal, would have been totally different if the Trump Administration had been in charge," he added. "Who or what will Joe Biden surrender to next? Someone should ask him, if they can find him."

Mark Esper, who was Trump's defense secretary, also suggested this week that Trump had mishandled the situation in Afghanistan by undermining a conditional deal that the US government and the Taliban struck in 2020. Esper told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that Trump had continued to pull troops out of Afghanistan even though the Taliban didn't uphold its end of the deal.

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