President Trump’s former national security advisor, retired Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, launched a blistering attack on the Trump administration’s Afghanistan peace negotiations Wednesday, accusing the administration of making “a tremendous mistake” by appearing to partner with the Taliban against the Afghan government.
Trump has long argued that U.S. troops should withdraw from Afghanistan, but McMaster said the way the president is going about it is wrong. “What we’re doing is an utter disaster and we and the Afghan people, sadly, may have to pay a much higher price as a result,” McMaster said during a webcast hosted by Arizona State University. “The Afghan people don’t want this.”
Those comments came the same day that Trump’s current national security advisor, Robert O’Brien, said publicly the U.S. would go down to 2,500 troops early next year.
McMaster, who commanded an anti-corruption task force in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2012, is far from the first U.S. general who has served in that country to express strong misgivings about the current peace process, However, as national security advisor from February 2017 to March 2018, he is the first senior Trump administration alumnus to speak out on the topic so strongly.
The Taliban, a jihadist group who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 before being forced from power by U.S. forces and the Afghan Northern Alliance, are currently engaged in long-delayed peace talks in Doha, Qatar, with the Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani. But in February the United States, represented by ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the State Department’s special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, negotiated a separate peace deal with the Taliban that commits Washington to withdraw all its forces from Afghanistan, contingent on the Taliban agreeing to certain conditions.