Mike Pompeo says President Biden is 'leading with weakness' as Taliban take over Afghanistan

Jason Tidd
Topeka Capital-Journal

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized President Joe Biden as "leading with weakness" following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

"This is a horrific set of foreign policy,” Pompeo said. “It is leading with weakness, it is begging, it is apologizing for America. Not only is it a bad idea, it is dangerous, as you can see from what’s happening in Afghanistan today.

"It’s even more dangerous for what will happen in Afghanistan tomorrow, and next year and five and 10 years from now, because we didn’t do the thing we needed. We didn’t have the American resolve to use our power.”

Pompeo, a close ally of former President Donald Trump, was in Wichita a day after Taliban fighters seized control of Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul. The U.S.-backed Afghan government collapsed after two decades of American fighting in the "war on terror," and soldiers continue evacuation efforts for diplomats and Afghans from the U.S. Embassy.

Pompeo's comments came as he delivered the keynote speech Monday at the Kansas Independent Oil & Gas Association annual convention.

"I was a young soldier a long time ago," said Pompeo, who was a cavalry officer in the U.S. Army. "I had lots of friends in the military, lots of friends who sacrificed an enormous amount in Afghanistan. Now, less than a month from the 20th anniversary of when we had 3,000 people killed here in the United States, and we have spent 20 years putting an awful lot of blood, nearly $30 billion a year in your treasury at risk."

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Pompeo was first elected to represent the Wichita area in Congress in 2010. He became Trump's Central Intelligence Agency director in 2017 and the secretary of state in 2018.

"President Trump made it very clear to me what his objective was: He wanted out (of Afghanistan)," Pompeo said. "He wanted our boys and girls home."

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Pompeo said that Trump instructed him "to negotiate peace and reconciliation between the Afghans ... and make sure we’re never attacked from there again."

In a peace deal with the Taliban, the Trump administration had negotiated a May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The U.S. agreed to withdraw all its forces in exchange for a Taliban promise to cut ties with al-Qaeda and stop attacking American troops.

At the time, Pompeo said the negotiation was based on a reality that "this war is unlikely to be won militarily without tremendous additional resources." The time was right for a peace deal because "all sides are tired of fighting."

More:Historic peace deal in Afghanistan reached with Taliban, allowing withdrawal of US troops

Pompeo said Monday no American soldiers were killed after the deal was made. 

"The Taliban understood that if they touched an American, let alone killed an American — as we phrased it, if you scare an American — that there will be real cost to you," he said. "We will come and find you."

Pompeo said it was "fun" when he showed a Taliban leader a photo of his home and told him they knew where his friends were, they knew where his village was and "we were going to hold those responsible for that American accountable."

Pompeo said Biden's administration should have made clear to the Taliban that "if they chased us out of town, we were going to chase them back to their town."

Now, "I pray that the Biden administration figures this out," Pompeo said, noting that he is unsure what portions of the Trump plan are being used by the current president.

Kansas' GOP congressmen address Afghanistan

Republican Reps. Ron Estes, Tracey Mann and Jake LaTurner were featured in a policy roundtable earlier in the day, during which they also addressed Afghanistan.

LaTurner said Biden's administration is "playing the blame game" with Trump's administration.

"People across the world understood that when Donald Trump said something, he meant it," LaTurner said. "He was going to do it. It's worth mentioning that we had a very strong negotiator in Secretary Pompeo doing a fabulous job for our country. It is a bad situation; it would not be like this under the Trump administration."

Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021.

The Biden administration had set an Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw all U.S. forces from the war-torn country. While the fall of the Afghan government was predicted, USA Today reported that an American military assessment last week had estimated it would take another month before the capital would face insurgent pressure.

But the Taliban quickly seized control of the country, despite the hundreds of billions of dollars spent by the U.S. and NATO allies over the years to build up national security forces.

"A real collapse of the (Afghan) military in the nation, their own military, about 300,000 people, had an air force," LaTurner said. "And the Taliban, a group of under 100,000, were able to move so quickly. We don’t want forever wars, and nation-building isn't something that I think we should engaged in, but certainly leaving in the manner that we have is not good.

"We are going to see the effects of it for a long time to come. It might not be with troops on the ground, but we are going to have to stay engaged in Afghanistan."

More:After two decades and billions spent, Afghan government collapses as Taliban takes Kabul

LaTurner said the Taliban will use their apparent victory as a recruiting tool.

The congressmen were asked about the potential destruction of military equipment before it falls into enemy hands.

"It's tough to move, the logistics of moving that much heavy equipment," Estes said, noting that he wasn't privy to all the military plans. "As quickly as things were allowed to collapse, obviously that has an impact on that process."

Tracey Mann: Afghanistan loss will hurt U.S. standing in world

Mann said the Afghanistan situation "makes the southern border that much more important and the debacle we're seeing down there absolutely national security interest No. 1 in my view."

Mann said he is opposed to endless wars, but the current situation shows weakness.

"What we’re seeing happen in Afghanistan right now is absolutely embarrassing, should never have happened and completely deplorable," Mann said. "I believe it will weaken the United States standing around the world and will weaken this presidency."

"We do not want to be in endless wars," he continued, "but there also has to be a plan in place to strategically think through all of the scenarios of how a drawdown would look or how a withdrawal should happen. What we're seeing is a total breakdown in leadership and a presidency that seems to be completely absent."

Estes noted the upcoming anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and said leaders in Russia, China, Iran and North Korea are all watching what's happening in Afghanistan.

"Over the last 20 years, the effort that was put in to helping make Afghanistan a country where individuals could have a choice and have some of the freedoms that we enjoy in the United States has all been thrown out the window now," Estes said. "When the president asks the Taliban to spare the embassy, that's certainly a show of weakness that's going to have repercussions not just in Afghanistan but throughout the world."