John Bolton calls Trump and Biden ‘Tweedledee and Tweedledum’ with matching positions on Afghanistan

‘Had Trump been re-elected, he’d be doing the same thing,’ former national security adviser says

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Wednesday 18 August 2021 17:36
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John Bolton calls Trump and Biden ‘Tweedledee and Tweedledum’ with matching positions on Afghanistan

John Bolton, Donald Trump’s national security adviser from 2018 to 2019, has said that the former president’s position on withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan is the same as President Joe Biden’s.

The comments come as Mr Trump called on the current commander in chief to “resign in disgrace” because of his handling of the crisis.

“It is time for Joe Biden to resign in disgrace for what he has allowed to happen to Afghanistan, along with the tremendous surge in Covid, the Border catastrophe, the destruction of energy independence, and our crippled economy. It shouldn’t be a big deal, because he wasn’t elected legitimately in the first place!” Mr Trump said in a statement on Sunday, again pushing the baseless conspiracy theory that the election was fraudulent.

“It’s not that we left Afghanistan. It’s the grossly incompetent way we left!” Mr Trump added on Monday.

When he was asked whether the withdrawal from Afghanistan had been a mistake, Mr Bolton told CNN on Tuesday: “There are two mistakes at work here. The first is the strategic mistake of withdrawing, which Biden made but which Trump fully supported. Had Trump been re-elected, he’d be doing the same thing. On this question of withdrawal from Afghanistan, Trump and Biden are like Tweedledee and Tweedledum.”

Mr Bolton placed the primary blame on Mr Biden for the handling of the US withdrawal and the chaotic scenes at Kabul Airport over the last several days as desperate Afghans try to leave the country to get away from Taliban rule.

“The second question though is: did the withdrawal occur in the best possible way? And the answer to that is no. It’s been a catastrophe and it’s only going to get worse,” Mr Bolton said.

“I think Biden does bear primary responsibility for that, though you see now fingers being pointed saying Trump didn’t leave us with any plans. We’ll have to see how that shakes out.”

Mr Trump claimed that he would have handled the situation better after saying in April that “getting out of Afghanistan is a wonderful and positive thing to do”.

On Monday, Mr Trump went after Mr Biden, issuing several statements.

“First Joe Biden surrendered to Covid-19, and it has come roaring back. Then he surrendered to the Taliban, who has quickly overtaken Afghanistan and destroyed confidence in American power and influence,” Mr Trump said.

Mr Biden has actively urged people to get vaccinated and has issued new requirements for federal workers, who will be required to sign forms attesting that they’ve been immunised against the Covid-19 or follow new rules on mandatory masking, weekly testing, and social distancing.

US service members will be required to get vaccinated starting in September according to new Pentagon rules endorsed by Mr Biden.

David Wohl, an infectious diseases researcher at the University of North Carolina, told The Washington Post that the recent rise in cases is “absolutely due to unvaccinated people”.

“The outcome in Afghanistan, including the withdrawal, would have been totally different if the Trump Administration had been in charge. Who or what will Joe Biden surrender to next? Someone should ask him, if they can find him,” Mr Trump added in another jab at his successor.

Mark Esper, who served as Defense Secretary in the Trump administration between 2019 and 2020, said on Tuesday that Mr Trump had “undermined” the 2020 deal struck between the Taliban and the US by pushing for the withdrawal of US troops without the Taliban holding up their end of the bargain.

“My concern was that President Trump, by continuing to want to withdraw American forces out of Afghanistan, undermined the agreement, which is why in the fall when he was calling for a return of US forces by Christmas, I objected and formally wrote a letter to him, a memo based on recommendations from the military chain of command and my senior civilian leadership that we not go further – that we not reduce below 4,500 troops unless and until conditions were met by the Taliban,” Mr Esper told CNN.

“Otherwise, we would see a number of things play out, which are unfolding right now in many ways,” he added.

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