Jan 6 panel examines Trump’s Afghanistan by-election order

President Donald Trump ordered the Pentagon to quickly withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan and Somalia immediately after his 2020 election defeat by Joe Biden, alarming senior advisers who feared the consequences would be “catastrophic,” according to the statement aired Thursday congress.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) cited Trump’s order during a House hearing reviewing the former president’s actions and directives prior to the Aug. 11, 2021 U.S. Capitol riot. It was evidence, the congressman said, that Trump knew his days in office were numbered as he attempted to overturn Biden’s election victory and “rushed” to close “unfinished business” despite the national security implications.

“He ignored concerns about the implications for weak frontline governments in the fight against [the Islamic State] and al-Qaeda terrorists,” said Kinzinger. “Knowing he was leaving office, he acted immediately and signed this order on November 11, which would have required the immediate withdrawal of troops from Somalia and Afghanistan to complete everything before Biden’s January 20 inauguration.”

Trump’s withdrawal order was previously reported by Axios and in the book Peril by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. However, Kinzinger’s presentation marked a dramatic moment in Thursday’s hearing The committee played video and audio clips of testimonies given over the past few months by key officials concerned by the president’s plans, including an army general. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and retired Army Lieutenant General. Keith Kellogg, who served as Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser.

The Afghanistan plan was eventually scrapped. Milley called the arrangement “strange” and “potentially dangerous” and told the committee he didn’t think it was feasible or wise. Kellogg said the proposal was “very controversial” and its implementation would have been a “huge disservice.” [the] Nation.”

“The same goes for President Biden,” Kellogg said, comparing the situation to the chaotic and deadly withdrawal carried out on Biden’s orders in August 2021. “It would have been a debacle.”

John McEntee, an adviser to Trump, recalled typing out the order to withdraw from Afghanistan and securing Trump’s signature on it. He offered no similar assessment to that of Milley and Kellogg in testimony aired Thursday.

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Her comments add to public understanding of the key military moves bridging the two presidencies and the often unpredictable nature of deliberations under Trump.

The Trump administration signed a deal with the Taliban in February 2020, agreeing to withdraw all US troops by spring 2021. It included a handful of concessions, including that the Taliban would hold fire on US troops if they left. The Afghan government was excluded from these discussions.

Trump later undermined this agreement by tweeting in October of that year that all US troops should be “home by Christmas”! Then-Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper sent Trump a memo advising the president that ongoing Taliban attacks, potential threats to remaining US personnel and risks to US alliances made this schedule unworkable.

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Trump fired Esper on Nov. 9, a day after the election defeat, and installed loyalists in the Pentagon at a time when governments typically seek a smooth transition on national security issues.

Biden decided in April 2021 to proceed with the withdrawal from Afghanistan, which led to the collapse of the country’s government four months later. Biden administration officials blamed Trump, saying his deal with the Taliban left few alternatives, while former Trump administration officials sought to distance themselves from the agreement, arguing that it should only be implemented if the conditions warranted.

Trump has slammed Biden for the arbitrary exit, calling him a “humiliation” and “total capitulation” and claiming it didn’t happen under his watch.

“We could have come out with honor,” Trump said at a rally last year. “We should have come out with honor. And instead we came up with the polar opposite of honor.”

Alyssa Farah Griffin, a former Trump administration official who has become a frequent critic, tweeted Thursday that as “someone who remains extremely critical of Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan,” she would be curious to hear how Trump did “Trump’s order for an even more hasty defense” supporters defend retreat.”

Under Trump’s orders, hundreds of US troops were withdrawn from Somalia in the last few weeks of his tenure. Some were posted to nearby Kenya while continuing to visit Somalia to advise local troops on fighting al Qaeda militants.

In May, Biden reversed Trump’s Somalia order and deployed hundreds of US troops there. Pentagon officials sought the President’s approval, pointing out that it was becoming increasingly untenable to be on the ground to conduct operations only occasionally. Since then, the Pentagon has conducted a handful of airstrikes in Somalia.

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