Former Trump administration official Chris Miller, who served as the acting Defense Department secretary for the final months, said on Wednesday that “Trump’s public promise to finish withdrawing U.S. troops by May 1, as negotiated with the Taliban, was actually a ‘play’ that masked the Trump administration’s true intentions: to convince Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to quit,” leaving the Taliban in charge.
Miller’s comments came during an interview with DefenseOne. The former official also claimed that “many Trump administration officials expected that the United States would be able to broker a new shared government in Afghanistan composed primarily of Taliban officials. The new government would then permit U.S. forces to remain in the country to support the Afghan military and fight terrorist elements.”
But that’s not what happened, in large part because Trump spent the final months of his presidency trying to overturn the 2020 election after his defeat to Joe Biden.
The comments were similar to revelations from former Pentagon chief Mark Esper, who told CNN International on Tuesday that he warned Trump that the plan he was crafting wouldn’t end well.
Another former senior Trump administration official told DefenseOne that Trump’s efforts to oust Ghani were to appease the Taliban.
“That’s what the Taliban wanted. They wanted to get rid of the legitimate government,” said the official.
“The decision space was either: keep a small U.S. counterterrorism presence along with 7,000 to 8,000 NATO troops and kind of hold down the fort and protect our counterterrorism interests, or go to zero and cede the country to the Taliban,” the official said.
“The Taliban were never going to agree to let any U.S. forces stay in the country and if any U.S. official thought that was possible, I think they were a victim of wishful thinking,” the official said.