Donald Trump is apparently aware of developments in Afghanistan, watching television from his New Jersey golf resort, and he wants the public to know he's not pleased with his presidential successor.
"[President Biden] ran out of Afghanistan instead of following the plan our Administration left for him -- a plan that protected our people and our property, and ensured the Taliban would never dream of taking our Embassy or providing a base for new attacks against America. The withdrawal would be guided by facts on the ground," Trump said in a statement.
Yesterday, the former president added that the current president should resign, in part because of "what he has allowed to happen to Afghanistan." The Republican concluded that, in his twisted worldview, Biden "wasn't elected legitimately in the first place," so his resignation "shouldn't be a big deal."
To be sure, many share responsibility for the collapse of the Afghan government, and Biden will shoulder part of the blame. The Democrat and his administration made a series of assumptions -- most notably about the viability of Afghan forces and the timeframe in which the Taliban would return to power -- that were plainly wrong.
But while the incumbent president will continue to confront many concerns raised by critics, the idea that Trump is a credible Biden detractor is deeply foolish.
Four months ago, after Biden unveiled a timeframe for the United States' withdrawal from Afghanistan, Trump celebrated the news as a "wonderful" and "positive" development. The Republican's only complaint at the time: Biden intended to get out by Sept. 11, and Trump called for an even more rapid exit. "[W]e can and should get out earlier," the former president said in a written statement, adding, "I planned to withdraw on May 1st, and we should keep as close to that schedule as possible."
In other words, when the Republican complains about Biden failing to "follow the plan" left by the Trump administration, the former president is apparently complaining that Biden's ongoing withdrawal is too slow.
Three weeks ago, Trump held a rally in Ohio and took credit for the U.S. exit. "I started the process," he boasted. "All the troops are coming back home. They couldn’t stop the process. 21 years is enough. Don’t we think? 21 years. [The Biden administration] couldn’t stop the process. They wanted to, but it was very tough to stop the process."
Over the weekend, the current president said in a statement, "When I came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor -- which he invited the Taliban to discuss at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 of 2019 -- that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on U.S. Forces. Shortly before he left office, he also drew U.S. Forces down to a bare minimum of 2,500. Therefore, when I became president, I faced a choice -- follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies' forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country's civil conflict."
All of this may seem self-serving for Biden, but the statement had the benefit of being accurate. Trump cut a deal that left the Taliban in a good position. Trump also invited the Taliban to Camp David shortly before the anniversary of 9/11.
At one point, the Trump administration suggested that Taliban might somehow partner with the United States, working "alongside of us to destroy" al Qaeda.
Several months later, Trump announced shortly before Election Day 2020 that he was ending the war in Afghanistan and bringing all troops home "by Christmas."
As we discussed at the time, the motivation behind the Republican's vow was obvious -- Trump wanted to be known as a president who finished the nation's "endless wars," despite the inconvenient fact that he hadn't ended any wars -- but his announcement was ridiculous. Trump hadn't coordinated the declaration with his own team, and U.S. allies had no idea what the then-president was talking about.
My point is not that Biden's policy toward Afghanistan is somehow beyond reproach. Reality shows otherwise. But if Trump believes he's a credible critic, he's mistaken.