Trump says abandoning Afghan airfield was critical mistake

Former President Donald Trump says abandoning Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan was a mistake.

Adding his voice to a chorus of Republicans critical of the Biden administration's decision to vacate the base used to coordinate the decadeslong war effort in Afghanistan, Trump argued it could have been used to alleviate the chaotic evacuations of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies in Kabul's airport following a Taliban takeover of the country. He also said the airfield provided significant strategic value to counter geopolitical rival China.

"We should have sent the people out very safely, and we would have had Bagram open. That was always going to be — we should have kept Bagram because Bagram is between China. It has total access to China, Iran, and Afghanistan. And I guess they didn't realize that they abandoned it," Trump told Lisa Boothe on her podcast, The Truth with Lisa Boothe.

U.S. troops and Western allies left the air base, about an hour's drive from Kabul, in early July as part of the withdrawal set to wrap up by Aug. 31. Top officials in the Biden administration have defended leaving the base before evacuations were complete, claiming the decision was based on the recommendation of the military — even as it left the effort reliant on a single civilian airport with one runway and prompted thousands of U.S. troops to be flown back into the capital to assist.

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“When it comes to Bagram, the best military advice that we received was that No. 1, Bagram was an immense facility that would be difficult to secure over time and put our troops at risk,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on NBC News's Meet the Press over the weekend. “And second, it didn’t logistically make sense from an evacuation perspective because it is located outside of Kabul, and both American diplomats, American citizens, and most of the Afghans at risk live inside Kabul.”

Still, the move has been subject to heavy criticism among Republicans in Congress amid scenes of pandemonium outside of the Kabul airport and concerns not all U.S. citizens will be able to leave the country by the end of the month.

“No one in their right mind would have closed Bagram Air Base while leaving behind thousands of civilians. But that’s what Joe Biden did," Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas said in a tweet.

The U.S. has evacuated approximately 82,000 people on military and coalition flights from Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport since Aug. 14, one day before the Taliban took the capital of Afghanistan and overran the former government, Biden administration officials said on Wednesday. At least 4,000 U.S. passport carriers and their families are among those who have been evacuated, but Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday there may be as many as 1,500 U.S. citizens left.

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Trump himself negotiated an agreement to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan as part of a deal cut with the Taliban. He insisted, "We would have had Bagram open because we always intended to keep it," even though he also said the military would have left the country following the evacuations.

"It would have been a wonderful thing to watch because the military would have come out — would have protected everybody. Then probably you bombed the bases. The bases that we determined. And then the military comes out, everybody is safe. We take all of our equipment. They're talking about $83 billion worth of equipment," he said.

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Tags: News, Donald Trump, National Security, Afghanistan, Joe Biden

Original Author: Daniel Chaitin

Original Location: Trump says abandoning Afghan airfield was critical mistake