Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S.’s withdrawal from Afghanistan “probably did not need to have turned out that way,” pinning blame on both former President TrumpDonald TrumpStowaway found in landing gear of plane after flight from Guatemala to Miami Kushner looking to Middle East for investors in new firm: report GOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips MORE and President BidenJoe BidenGOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips Five House members meet with Taiwanese president despite Chinese objections Sunday shows preview: New COVID-19 variant emerges; supply chain issues and inflation persist MORE.
Gates — during an interview with “60 Minutes” that is set to air on Sunday — said watching the U.S. pull troops from Kabul sickened him.
“It was really tough… I actually wasn't feeling very well… And I was just so low about the way it had ended,” Gates told Anderson Cooper.
“The other feeling that I had was that it probably did not need to have turned out that way,” he added.
Sunday on 60 Minutes: Robert Gates says watching the Afghanistan withdrawal sickened him. The former defense secretary and CIA head also says China is the United States' top military and economic rival now. https://t.co/O0WYyP5f85 pic.twitter.com/aPiBwZPWyX— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) October 14, 2021
Gates served as Defense secretary from 2006 until 2011, overseeing the war in Afghanistan under former Presidents George W. Bush and Obama. He also served as the director of the CIA between 1991 and 1993.
The former Pentagon chief pinned the blame for the messy withdrawal — which ended with the death of 13 U.S. service members by a suicide bomber — on both Trump and Biden.
He pointed to the ample time Trump had to plan the pullout, and Biden’s failure to start the evacuation in April, when he announced the U.S. would withdraw by Sept. 11.
“Certainly the military considers withdrawal the most dangerous part of an operation. But they really had a lot of time to plan, beginning with the deal that President Trump cut-- with the Taliban… So that was in February of 2020,” Gates said, referring to the agreement Trump brokered with the insurgent group in February 2020.
Many critics have condemned Trump for the deal, arguing that it emboldened the Taliban.
“If you start with the notion that we're pulling out entirely, I think you'd have to be pretty naïve not to assume things were going to go downhill once that withdrawal was complete,” the former Pentagon chief said.
Both Biden and Trump were the target of criticism following the U.S.’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, which brought an end to America’s longest war after 20 years of military involvement.