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A photo of former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo meeting with a Taliban delegation has come back to haunt him as the ex-Trump official has criticised President Joe Biden over the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Mr Pompeo met with a Taliban delegation, including Abdul Ghani Baradar, last fall in Qatar as he sought to negotiate the Trump-backed peace deal with the militant group. Mr Baradar is now a top leader of the group.
Mr Pompeo was asked about his own role in helping the Taliban gain international legitimacy as he attempted to put blame on the chaos unfolding in Kabul squarely on the shoulders of President Joe Biden.
— Don Winslow (@donwinslow) August 16, 2021
Speaking with host Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, the former Trump administration official argued that the Biden administration had “just failed in its execution of its own plan”, and called on the US to “crush” the Taliban in and around Kabul with US air power.
“It looks like they are now trying to get folks out. This reminds me of when we have seen previous administrations allow embassies to be overrun, it’s starting to feel that way. It also looks like there’s a bit of panic having to reinsert soldiers to get them out,” he said.
“We should do it with American air power, we should put pressure on them, we should inflict cost and pain on them. We shouldn’t be begging them to spare the lives of Americans, we should be imposing costs on the Taliban until they allow us to execute our plan in Afghanistan,” Mr Pompeo continued.
His statement laying the blame on Mr Biden clashed with explanations offered by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and others who have argued in recent days that the US would have been forced to go back to war with the Taliban had it not followed a withdrawal deadline set by former President Donald Trump.
Mr Wallace responded, however, by pointing out that Mr Pompeo himself had pushed to legitimise the Taliban’s leadership under the Trump administration, which eventually inked a ceasefire deal that largely resulted in the Taliban shifting their military attacks to target local security forces and the Afghan National Army.
"Do you regret giving the Taliban that legitimacy? Do you regret pressing the Afghan government to release 5,000 prisoners, which they did, some of whom are now back on the battlefield fighting with the Taliban?" asked Mr Wallace.
Mr Pompeo seemed to suggest in his answer that the Trump administration would have used military force against the Taliban before it endangered the capital, a sentiment echoed by other former Trump officials who, like the ex-diplomat, have not explained how long the US should have remained in the country if engaged in further combat operations against Taliban forces.
“We didn’t take the word of the Taliban, we watched their actions on the ground. When they did the right thing and helped us against terror, that was all good, and when they didn’t, we crushed them,” he said.
Mr Biden has faced criticism over the disorganisation and chaos that surrounds the evacuation of US personnel from Kabul, as well as the president’s own prediction last month that Americans would not see a Saigon-style frenzy to exit the country.
Videos showed desperate Afghans clinging to US military aircraft attempting to depart the airport, while personnel where shuttled from the embassy in helicopters to await flights out of the country. Commercial flights out of the airport appear to have been halted at least temporarily as US forces struggle to maintain order amid thousands of fleeing civilians.