McMaster: Rapid Taliban takeover 'should not have come as a surprise'

Former national security adviser H.R. McMaster said that the rapid Taliban takeover of Afghanistan “should not have come as a surprise” to the Biden administration, which he argued adopted, along with former President TrumpDonald TrumpYoungkin ad features mother who pushed to have 'Beloved' banned from son's curriculum White House rejects latest Trump claim of executive privilege Democrats say GOP lawmakers implicated in Jan. 6 should be expelled MORE, a policy of repeated concessions to the insurgent group. 

In an interview on NBC’s “Today," co-host Savannah Guthrie asked McMaster, who served under the Trump administration from February 2017 to April 2018, to respond to Biden’s comment on Monday that the territorial gains by the Taliban and the takeover of Kabul happened “more quickly than we anticipated.” 

“They should not have been surprised,” McMaster responded, adding that the past two administrations delivered “psychological blows to the Afghans” by “telling them that we're going to withdrawal, making concession after concession with the Taliban, not even allowing the Afghan government to participate in what became our capitulation agreement with the Taliban.” 

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“So it should not have come as a surprise at all,” the retired Army general added. 

Biden during his White House address on the situation in Afghanistan Monday argued that his hands were tied on what he could do in the Middle Eastern country due to Trump’s deal with the Taliban to withdraw U.S. forces by May 2021. 

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McMaster responded to this on Tuesday, arguing that “President Trump, as President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden ahead of pace Trump set for days away from White House: CNN The Senate is setting a dangerous precedent with Iron Dome funding Obama says change may be coming 'too rapidly' for many MORE had and as President BidenJoe BidenOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Methane fee faces negotiations White House rejects latest Trump claim of executive privilege The No Surprises Act:  a bill long overdue MORE did, prioritized our withdrawal over the achievement of any sort of worthy aim in Afghanistan.” 

“And I believe that aim was worthy,” he added. “It was to deny jihadist terrorists a safe haven support base that they could use to again conduct attack on the scale of 9/11, which we ought to remember was the most devastating attack in history.”

“We should have learned from that, but also from the precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, as well,” he continued. “What happened in Iraq, of course, is al Qaeda in Iraq became ISIS.” 

McMaster went on to argue that “the al Qaeda group and other jihadist terrorists, 20 of which are in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, are going to gain strength from this.”

“A victory for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is a victory for these terrorist groups,” he said. 

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The ex-Trump official, who left the administration following continued disagreements with the former president over key policy positions, added that the “number one priority” right now should be helping Afghan civilians out of the country as the Taliban is working to form a new government. 

The Pentagon has deployed thousands more troops to Kabul to assist in the evacuation of U.S. diplomats and citizens there, where flights were paused for hours Monday after Afghan civilians crowded the runways in desperation. 

Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor of the Joint Staff told reporters on Tuesday that between 700 and 800 people have been transported from Kabul on seven C-17s, including 165 U.S. citizens and hundreds of Special Immigrant Visa applicants and third-country nationals.