President Joe Biden’s team has increasingly grown defensive following the swift Taliban seizure of key Afghan cities after he withdrew American troops.
West Wing officials voiced their frustrations with former President Donald Trump in conversations with Axios reporter Jonathan Swan.
The officials complained that Trump only left them with 3,000 troops in Afghanistan, forcing them to withdraw because there was no way to keep the peace with such a small force, according to the report.
There was an early peace in Afghanistan, team Biden argued, only because Trump agreed to leave on May 1.
That was an argument that White House press secretary Jen Psaki used in July, noting Biden believed the Taliban “would have been shooting at U.S. troops again after May 1.”
“The withdrawal deadline negotiated by the previous administration kind of set that timeline,” she said.
Biden first chose to extend the deadline for troop withdrawals to September 11, but in July he moved up the timeline to August 31.
Biden also insisted in July that the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was “not inevitable” in an exchange with reporters.
When asked why he was confident, Biden signaled optimism regarding the strength of the Afghanistan army.
“The Afghan troops have 300,000 — as well-equipped as any army in the world — and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban,” he said. “It is not inevitable.”
Trump himself criticized Biden’s handling of the withdrawal in Afghanistan in a statement on Thursday.
“I personally had discussions with top Taliban leaders whereby they understood what they are doing now would not have been acceptable,” he said, noting that if he was still president, he would have focused on a “conditions-based” withdrawal.”
What Biden was doing, Trump said, was “not acceptable.”
“It would have been a much different and much more successful withdrawal, and the Taliban understood that better than anyone,” he said.
Biden spent much of Thursday at the White House discussing what to do in Afghanistan, appearing two hours late for a scheduled speech at the White House about prescription drugs.
The Pentagon announced Thursday they had deployed about 3,000 troops to assist with the evacuation of Americans at the embassy in Kabul.
But the White House signaled Thursday they had no regrets about their decisions.
“The President is firmly focused on how we can continue to execute an orderly drawdown and protect our men and women serving in Afghanistan,” Psaki said in a statement to Fox News. “You heard him earlier this week: he does not regret his decision.”