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Afghanistan Surrender Theory: Rumsfeld in 2001 vs Pompeo in 2020

Let's discuss surrenders, deals, and the direct consequences of a failure to deal.
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We Don't Negotiate Surrenders

Surrender Theory and Practice

  • We don’t negotiate surrenders,” said Donald Rumsfeld, then the secretary of defense, in 2001.
  • Our secretary of state signed a surrender agreement with the Taliban,” said H.R. McMaster, Trump's former head of National Security. “This collapse goes back to the capitulation agreement of 2020. The Taliban didn’t defeat us. We defeated ourselves.”

Rumsfeld on Surrenders

The New York Times asks Did the War in Afghanistan Have to Happen?

It was in the waning days of November 2001 that Taliban leaders began to reach out to Hamid Karzai, who would soon become the interim president of Afghanistan: They wanted to make a deal.

“The Taliban were completely defeated, they had no demands, except amnesty,” recalled Barnett Rubin, who worked with the United Nations’ political team in Afghanistan at the time.

“The United States is not inclined to negotiate surrenders,” Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said in a news conference at the time, adding that the Americans had no interest in leaving Mullah Omar to live out his days anywhere in Afghanistan. The United States wanted him captured or dead.

Trump's Deal With the Taliban

US Peace Envoy

Let's now consider Trump's Deal With the Taliban signed February 29, 2020, image courtesy of the Washington Post.

Ten Key Deal Points

  1. The United States, its allies, and the Coalition will take the following measures in the first one hundred thirty-five (135) days [starting February 29, 2020].
  2. They will reduce the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to eight thousand six hundred (8,600) and proportionally bring reduction in the number of its allies and Coalition forces.
  3. The United States, its allies, and the Coalition will withdraw all their forces from five military bases.
  4. Up to five thousand (5,000) prisoners of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and up to one thousand (1,000) prisoners of the other side will be released by March 10, 2020, the first day of intra-Afghan negotiations.
  5. The United States, its allies, and the Coalition will complete withdrawal of all remaining forces from Afghanistan within the remaining nine and a half (9.5) months [by Mid-December].
  6. The United States, its allies, and the Coalition will withdraw all their forces from remaining bases [by Mid-December].
  7. The United States will initiate an administrative review of current U.S. sanctions and the rewards list against members of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan with the goal of removing these sanctions by August 27, 2020
  8. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will prevent any group or individual in Afghanistan from threatening the security of the United States and its allies, and will prevent them from recruiting, training, and fundraising and will not host them in accordance with the commitments in this agreement.
  9. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will not provide visas, passports, travel permits, or other legal documents to those who pose a threat to the security of the United States and its allies to enter Afghanistan.
  10. The United States will seek economic cooperation for reconstruction with the new post settlement Afghan Islamic government as determined by the intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations, and will not intervene in its internal affairs.

Art of the Deal

Those bullet points are straight from the State Department Document Bringing Peace to Afghanistan signed in Doha, Qatar on February 29, 2020.

Yes, Art of the Deal fans, that is the exact deal Trump negotiated.

What did Trump get? Vague promises that the Taliban they would not threaten the security of the US or its allies. There were a couple similar vague promises but points 8 and 9 above encompass the idea.

If you believe I left out any key pieces, please read the deal and point them out. I will gladly make corrections if I missed anything significant.

A Surrender, Not a Deal 

Who is H.R. McMaster?

In February 2017, McMaster succeeded Michael Flynn as President Donald Trump's National Security Advisor

He remained on active duty as a lieutenant general while serving as National Security Advisor. McMaster resigned as National Security Advisor on March 22, 2018.

Trump's Surrender

Trump negotiated a surrender. Period.

Bear in mind, I agree with getting out of Afghanistan. 

However, it would have been far better just to get the hell out saying nothing than sign that deal. 

Indeed, we should have declared success, mission over, and left. Instead, that signed deal is Trump's legacy.

If Trump promised to get out by December of 2020. He even put that in writing. Instead, he withdrew troops despite the fact the Taliban did not honor their vague promises.

Inept Handling

Trump's surrender does not excuse Biden's extremely poor handling of the exit process. 

Nor does it excuse US intelligence for terrible estimates on how long Afghan forces would hold out fighting the Taliban. 

Afghan Surrender

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In addition to Trump's surrender, the Afghan government toops laid down their weapons and surrendered to the Taliban often without a fight. 

That explains the rapid takeover by the Taliban given 2,500 US troops were all that remained when Biden took office.

But if the Afghans would not fight for their country, why should we? 

Admit Mistakes and Move On

Trump's Ironic Prophecy

  • I am thinking the same thing as I have for the last number of years.
  • What are we doing there? These people hate us.
  • As soon as we leave it's all going to blow up anyway

If Trump could have gotten us out of Afghanistan without creating a mess, then why did he purposely leave it up to Biden to execute his plan instead of withdrawing by the end of 2020 as he originally promised?

The US has had failed policy in Afghanistan for 20 years. There's plenty of blame for 4 administrations over that pathetic course. 

The final result, owned by 4 administrations speaks for itself. But despite making a huge mess of the exit (thanks in large part by Trump), it was Biden who got us out.

Cost of the Debacle

Please consider the Costs of 20 Years of War by the Watson Institute of Brown University.

Since late 2001, the United States has appropriated and is obligated to spend an estimated $6.4 Trillion through Fiscal Year 2020 in budgetary costs related to and caused by the post-9/11 wars—an estimated $5.4 Trillion in appropriations in current dollars and an additional minimum of $1 Trillion for US obligations to care for the veterans of these wars through the next several decades.

As Christopher Mann of the Congressional Research Service acknowledges, “No government-wide reporting consistently accounts for both DOD and non-DOD war costs.” This leaves a hole in our understanding of the total costs of the post-9/11 wars that allows for confusion and partial accounting that can be mistaken for an assessment of the entire budgetary costs and consequences of these wars.

Tulsi Gabbard

  • The elite wanted to nation build, getting us into a 20-year war with no clear mission or strategy causing massive suffering and wasting trillions of dollars.
  • Afghanistan, the question is this: Will we hold accountable the elite, the political leaders, the mainstream media, the military leaders, defense contractors, et cetera, who got us into and kept us in this foolish, short-sighted mission to turn Afghanistan into a "democracy"?
  • Unlikely
  • And will we blindly allow the elite to drag us into new, even more costly military adventures in the name of spreading or protecting democracy?
  •  Probably.

Tulsi Gabbard born April 12, 1981, is an American politician and United States Army Reserve officer who served as the U.S. Representative for Hawaii's 2nd congressional district from 2013 to 2021. Elected in 2012, she was the first Hindu member of Congress and also the first Samoan-American voting member of Congress. In early February 2019 she announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 United States presidential election.

Who Won?

Citing the Brown University study, the Brookings Institute concluded "In his long war against America, Osama bin Laden has won a sweeping if posthumous victory."

Laden scored a tremendous strategic victory for the cost of less than two dozen people and $500,000. 


  • The US engaged in two wars at the total cost of $6 trillion or more (including long-term health costs) and thousands of lives.
  • The Patriot Act weakened Constitutional protections for individuals and the rise a subtle surveillance state (as Edward Snowden first exposed). 
  • The fall of Iraq (Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s’ crazy fixation) led to ISIS when the Iraq military was disbanded. That helped to destabilize Syria. 
  • Destabilization in the Middle East helped create a surge of migration to Europe which has caused major issues for Europe/EU. 

Bin Laden never imagined the long-term damage those “four sorties” would cause. Even the current humiliation of the US in Afghanistan is a reverberation.

On August 26, I wrote Pakistan is the Real Winner of the Afghanistan War

Perhaps the Brookings institute has the better proposal, but looking ahead, Pakistan looks like the next big problem. 

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