In a press briefing Thursday, U.S. Department of Defense officials said that the U.S. will continue to evacuate Americans and other allies from Afghanistan despite two terrorist attacks this week that killed a dozen U.S. service members and injured others.
A retired Army lieutenant general who served as a national security advisor in the Trump administration is warning that Afghanistan will become a "new epicenter of jihadist terrorism" with the Taliban controlling it and the United States having withdrawn.
Lt. Gen H.R. McMaster, who served as national security advisor to President Trump from Feb. 2017 to April 2018, says he disagrees with his former boss and President Biden – both of whom supported pulling American troops from the country.
McMaster also says Biden has botched the withdrawal.
He made the remarks on Fox News after a suicide bomber exploded himself outside the Kabul airport, killing 13 American troops.
"It's going to get much worse," McMaster said before expressing dismay that the Haqqani network – an Islamist militant organization that supports terrorism – is "now in charge of security in Kabul." The Haqqani network in 2011 led an attack on a Kabul hotel. In 2008 and 2009, the network was responsible for suicide bombings against the Indian Embassy in Kabul. The U.S. considers Haqqani a foreign terrorist organization.
"You compound that with the 5,000 that we made the Afghans release from prison. And then you compound that further with all the prisons being empty now of ISIS, Khorasan and al-Qaeda and the Taliban," McMaster said.
"And so what we now have is a new epicenter of jihadist terrorism that is going to be a grave threat to the world," he said. "So the question is, what are we to do now? Are we going to start being serious people again? Are we going to stop talking about [how] we need to engage the Taliban about the future of Afghanistan – and maybe instead engage Afghans other than the Taliban, about the future of Afghanistan and then really double down on our counterterrorism efforts broadly with partners across the world because the situation is going to get much worse."
The U.S., he said, "defeated ourselves." McMaster told the BBC that Trump had been "played" by the Taliban. McMaster last year said he disagreed with Trump's position, calling it "unwise."
McMaster co-wrote a Wall Street Journal editorial this month where he said "some in Washington drew a bold line between the Taliban and al Qaeda" when "in reality, those groups are intertwined, and a Taliban victory is a victory for the group that murdered nearly 3,000 innocents on 9/11."
The Biden administration, he added, "ignored the warnings" of what could happen in Afghanistan. When Biden announced his intention to withdraw from Afghanistan earlier this year, no more than 3,500 troops remained, he wrote.
"Pundits in Washington," McMaster said, "repeat the mantra that there was 'no military solution' in Afghanistan. The Taliban seem to have come up with one."