As a retired Army general who served ten tours in Afghanistan, it’s not surprising that Don Bolduc thinks America’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan is a “hugely regrettable disaster.” But his proposal for America’s future in Afghanistan may raise an eyebrow or two.
Teaming up with the Taliban.
In a podcast interview with NHJournal, the Stratham resident and Republican U.S. Senate candidate had harsh words for President Joe Biden’s handling of the withdrawal, blaming the administration for not being ready.
“I have seen better planning skills in my 8-year-old grandson when he gets ready to go to school in the morning,” Bolduc said.
Asked what he felt as he watched images coming from the country where he’d served for so many years, Bolduc was blunt: “It was dismay, disappointment, bordering on outrage because I’ve been there from the beginning. I saw what the Taliban were doing to women and children, the complete and utter devastation they created.
“It was absolutely hard to watch and very disappointing,” Bolduc added.
Worse, he said, it was completely unnecessary, claiming that he and other commanders on the ground had warned for years that exiting Afghanistan would require thoughtful planning premised on the knowledge that the Afghan military would not stand up to the Taliban.
He said his contacts in Afghanistan have been telling him in recent weeks and months that would happen.
“They knew what was coming,” Bolduc said.
Stephen Biddle, a professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University and a former adviser to U.S. commanders in Afghanistan, concurred with Bolduc’s assessment.
“The problem of the U.S. withdrawal is that it sent a nationwide signal that the jig is up — a sudden, nationwide signal that everyone read the same way,” Biddle told the AP.
Before April, the Afghan government troops were slowly but steadily losing the war. The impulse to give up without a fight “spread like wildfire
once they knew the Americans were leaving for good, Biddle said.
Biden has repeatedly claimed he and his strategists were “prepared for every contingency, including the swift fall of Kabul,” a claim repeated by administration officials like National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.
Bolduc dismissed those statements, saying any Army officer who mishandled an important job this badly “would be summarily fired, obviously,” adding, “This was sheer incompetence.”
Biden has attempted to blame the evacuation fiasco on former President Donald Trump, claiming an agreement he signed with the Taliban left the current with president limited options. That argument has been dismissed by Democrats and Republicans alike, but it does highlight the fact that Trump did negotiate with the terrorist group. Was legitimizing the Taliban in this way a mistake?
Bolduc says no.
“You know, I did not disagree with legitimizing the Taliban because the Taliban is a political party in Afghanistan and has been elected consistently to their parliament in both houses since 2004, since the first election,” Bolduc said. “So the Taliban does have a place politically in that government and they earned it by getting elected.”
In fact, Bolduc said, the U.S. should team up with the Taliban, who he believes will join the West in fighting terror groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS. As for the Taliban’s longstanding cooperation with these groups? “That was just a marriage of convenience.”
Despite the Taliban having the blood of American soldiers on their hands, Bolduc said a partnership is needed to protect American interests in the region and to keep out hostile players like Russia and China.
“Let’s work together as an international community, diplomatically, to put businesses in place and to use the precious resources [the Taliban] have to benefit the Afghan people,” Bolduc suggested.”Because what’s going to happen now is China and Russia are gonna come in and they’re going to cut a deal. They’re going to pay a lot of money, and they’re going to strip that place of its lithium, of its oil, of its copper, of everything they can use that they need back in Russia, back in China
“Whether you like it or not, the fact is we should work with [the Taliban] and be in partnership with them in essence, to kind of try to manage them towards the good, as opposed to leaving the Chinese and Russians to manage them away from Western interests,” Bolduc said.
It’s an idea that wounded veterans and families of the fallen may be reluctant to embrace.
As for the current situation, Bolduc says there’s no need to bribe the Taliban or rely on their assurances of safe passage to get the thousands of Americans and Afghan allies safely to the states. The U.S. can stand firm and get everyone out who needs to get out.
“We know how to do it. We can get it done. And they will pay a price if they interfere. I know this, and I’d be glad to put my uniform on and go there and assist,” Bolduc said.