The United States' presence in Afghanistan marked a central strategic position, but with President Joe Biden's order for a full, accelerated withdrawal of the military from the war-torn country, "we're giving it away and we're getting nothing in return," former national security adviser and ambassador John Bolton said Friday.
He also insisted on CNN's "New Day" that the United States was not defeated in Afghanistan, but that the Biden administration is giving up because the country has "lost patience" with the efforts that began 20 years ago, shortly after the 9-11 attacks.
“(We) walked away from it," Bolton, who had served under former President Donald Trump, said. "That’s a sad commentary about the current administration, but it’s not a defeat for the United States."
Last week, Biden announced the drawdown would be finished by Aug. 31, ahead of the deadline he had set on Sept 11. Trump, before leaving office, had also called for the end of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.
Bolton also warned that the United States could be in danger without keeping a military presence in Afghanistan.
He said he doesn't think a terrorist attack could happen quickly once U.S. and NATO troops are removed and the Taliban retakes the country, but there there is still a risk down the line.
"I do think it’s going to take more time, and that’s really what the risk is," said Bolton "I would rather defend innocent American civilians there than in the streets and the skies over America."
He also warned that a Taliban takeover of the Afghanistan government would serve to strengthen the hand of extremists in Pakistan, meaning that the risk that the Taliban would take over that government as well "increases substantially" and poses a grave situation.
"(They) would have control of dozens or scores of nuclear weapons," in Pakistan, Bolton said.
Keeping troops in Afghanistan is also important because the United States will have trouble monitoring Iran, said Bolton.
Bolton also predicted that if the Taliban succeeds in toppling the Afghan government, "the hand of the extremists in Pakistan will be strengthened, and the risk of a Pakistani Taliban takeover of that government increases substantially."
A Taliban-run government in Pakistan "would have control of dozens or scores of nuclear weapons," Bolton warned, adding that a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan would also inhibit American efforts to monitor "what Iran is up to."
"This was a central strategic position for the United States," he said. "We’re giving it away. We’re getting nothing in return."
Former President George W. Bush this week criticized the withdrawal, and Bolton, who also served under Bush, called his comments "something really remarkable" and noted the former president rarely criticizes his successors publicly.
"It’s how former presidents ought to behave," said Bolton. "He’s tried to stay out of politics, and it’s been very rare when he’s come forward."
In his interview with German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, Bush said he thinks the withdrawal is a mistake because "the consequences are going to be unbelievably bad," and that the fears girls and women in Afghanistan will 'suffer unspeakable harm" as a result.
Bolton said he thinks Bush spoke out "because he remembers 9-11," which took place under Bush's watch.
"It’s 20 years ago now, and some people weren’t born, and a lot of people don’t remember very well," said Bolton. "George W. Bush is never going to forget it. I think those of us who were in his administration at the time are never going to forget it."
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