Former Vice President Mike Pence spoke to Brian Kilmeade about the Biden Administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and how the Trump Administration would have handled it. Pence says he never would have left Bagram Air Base and the Trump administration would have enforced the conditions agreed to by the Taliban.
BRIAN KILMEADE, HOST, THE BRIAN KILMEADE SHOW: Former Vice President Mike Pence has something to say about that. Wrote about it in “The Wall Street Journal” and now wants to join us to talk about it.
Mr. Vice President, great to hear from you.
MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Great to be with you, Brian. Thanks for having me on the program and for your clarion voice on the airwaves of America.
KILMEADE: And especially now. I mean, thank you, but it just — I remember every step of the way for the last 20 years, the ups and downs of the Afghanistan War, the invasion, the surge, things that have happened since. And, of course, the agreement that was cut.
First up, did you guys not process visas? And is that problem? And why the airport is so backed up?
PENCE: Well, of course, it’s not the problem. But let me — you’re one of my favorite historians out there, Brian.
KILMEADE: Thank you.
PENCE: So let me — let me push away from the table for just a second. You know, I was in Washington, D.C. on September 11th and the Biden administration’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, it’s a foreign policy humiliation unlike anything our country’s endured since the Iran hostage crisis. But I want to be clear to our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard and to the families of our fallen, some 2,400 Americans that were lost, 20,000 Americans wounded in Afghanistan.
That the — yes (ph), humiliating withdrawal that’s underway today, the complete mismanagement of the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan does not take anything away from the incredible service that’s taken place over the last 20 years. Our armed forces took the fight to Al-Qaeda and to the Taliban in Afghanistan and I believe we will mark the 20th anniversary of September 11th without another major terrorist event on American soil.
And as a direct result —
PENCE: — of the service and sacrifice of those who served. So I think it’s important that we make that clear from the outset to all of the — our service members, you know, I’ve got two in active duty military in my immediate family right now. Our son’s deployed. The reality is, we got to make sure they understand that we will never forget their service or sacrifice. We’ll never fail to honor it.
That being said, what you’re seeing in the Biden administration, I think, is just an effort to shift — to shift the conversation and shift the blame from a — from a, you know, just an unspeakably poor effort to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Look, we all want our troops to come home but not like that. And our administration, beginning in February of 2020, had reached an agreement that would provide for a gradual withdrawal if certain conditions were met by the Taliban.
To end all attacks on U.S. military personnel and now we’re 18 months, there hasn’t been a single American casualty. In our last year in office, there was not a single American casualty. They had to refuse terrorist, Al-Qaeda, ISIS (INAUDIBLE) safe harbor. And they had to agree to negotiate with Afghan leaders on creating a new government. And I can tell you there was healthy debate within the administration about what that would finally look like —
PENCE: — and what, you know, whether or not, you know, that there would be an enduring presence if the Taliban failed. And I, you know, I’ll always keep my opinions between me and the president at the present moment. But I — President Trump always invited a healthy debate.
PENCE: But what the Biden administration has done in this case, by arbitrarily announcing that they were going to bring troop levels to zero by September the 11th, they announced America is back, diplomacy is back, irrespective of the situation on the ground, set this disaster in motion. And I can tell you from a position of weakness as opposed to our administration’s position of strength, things would have been —
KILMEADE: But —
PENCE: — I think diametrically the opposite bringing our troops home with honor and not like we’re seeing today.
KILMEADE: Well a couple of things. Did they violate by taking Kabul? Was the — part of the deal is they were not supposed to take Kabul and the minute they did, if that’s a violation, what would you guys have done?
PENCE: Well, look, when we left office, the Afghan government and the Taliban controlled their respective territories. There were no major offensives mounted. And we only had 2,500 American troops in the country; that’s the smallest number since 2001.
And I think the reason why things would have been different, I, you know, people ask a lot in the debate is how would it have been different? And there’s, you know, the administration is very quick to want to point to the past.
Well, I’ll tell you the difference. The difference is strength. When our administration negotiated the agreement with the Taliban, it was just a matter of weeks after we had taken out Qasem Soleimani.
It was just four months after we had destroyed the ISIS caliphate and taken down Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. I mean, the one thing the world knew with President Donald Trump was that when he made it clear that we would use American force to defend America’s interests, he’d follow through on it.
KILMEADE: Well, Mr. Vice President, I think you’re right —
PENCE: But someone (ph) in Syria learned that the hard way with 58 cruise missiles and —
KILMEADE: Right, (INAUDIBLE) but you know that he wanted to get it —
PENCE: And I — and I’ll tell you, Brian —
PENCE: — I was in the Oval Office when President Trump spoke to Mullah Baradar. And he made it clear at the outset of that agreement that if they broke the agreement, the consequences would be swift and severe. And I truly believe —
KILMEADE: Well — I understand. A couple of things — couple of things, though, Mr. Vice President —
PENCE: — I honestly believe that the Biden —
KILMEADE: — on Baradar in particular — on Baradar in particular.
PENCE: — did not make that clear —
PENCE: — and it created — it created the disastrous environment we see today.
KILMEADE: But do you think that Ambassador Khalilzad did a good job because one of the things — and he’s still working — one of the things he did recommend to the president, to Mike Pompeo, that we get Baradar out of prison. He was an aide to Mullah Omar.
We get him out of prison, he’s now running things. He’s the guy we got to talk to now. He was sentenced — he was captured by the CIA and then he was sentenced to prison for eight years, and we got him out. Do you think that was a good move?
PENCE: Look, I think — there’s an old adage in history that you don’t make peace with your allies, you make peace with your enemies. And I can tell you that President Trump and I were elected in 2016 on a promise of getting our troops home.
There’s no question the American people, and not just service families like mine, but the American people wanted to bring our troops home. But we wanted to bring them home with honor. And I believe that from a position of strength, demanding that the conditions be met by the Taliban, that we wouldn’t be seeing what we’re seeing today.
Now, that being said, you know, that’s rearview mirror stuff. I think it’s absolutely essential that every voice in America be a chorus to this president and to this administration saying you’ve got to do whatever it takes to get our American citizens home, to get our troops home safely.
And to bring our allies out of Afghanistan, people that stood with our soldiers in the field but to do that with the kind of vetting that we don’t have people that are slipping through the process that would ultimately threaten our security and —
KILMEADE: Got you.
PENCE: — our citizens and this country.
KILMEADE: Well, now, what about the order in which you would have done this? Is it true —
KILMEADE: — that you were going to leave Bagram Air Base first as well or were you going to keep Bagram Air Base and not use — and not use Kabul Airport to get citizens out, let alone military, but citizens out?
PENCE: Well — yes.
KILMEADE: Or all (ph) — the people that we want out like our – the people that helped us?
PENCE: Well, what I can tell you is what, you know, what President Trump said a week ago. Which was the logical way to do this would be to bring our citizens out first, to help our allies come out while we still have force presence on the ground.
But you know what was really lacking in this case was less about logistics than it was about a credible threat of the use of force. I mean, whether it be 58 cruise missiles into Syria, whether it be taking down ISIS as our military forces did at the direction of the commander-in-chief.
Taking down Baghdadi, using force to take down Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. What the Taliban knew with our administration was that we would use force to prosecute America’s —
KILMEADE: Can you name —
PENCE: — interest and to defend Americans —
KILMEADE: — Mr. Vice President, can you name the violations —
PENCE: — in Afghanistan.
KILMEADE: Right. Can you name the violations of your agreement that would have led to military action? Number one, the never denounced Al-Qaeda. And Al-Qaeda’s got a presence in this new government through the Haqqani Network that we know of.
Number two is they weren’t supposed to take Kabul. They were supposed to agree to a coalition government. But when you said when the agreement was done, it wasn’t you directly but it was more, you know, the Secretary of State, when the agreement was done, the word was there was going to be a coalition government. But when the agreement was actually signed, if any violation happened, there would be a military strike against them.
But you guys were going to be out in May. If you guys were out in May, how would things have been different? Because one of the things you did is, don’t attack our guys, but they picked up the pace on attacking the Afghans. A lot of people think that dispirited them.
PENCE: Well, I think the difference was strength. I think the difference was with President Trump in the White House and our team on the ground, we pretty — when we left office, there was essentially a stable environment. A year of no American casualties.
And as I said, the Taliban and the Afghan government were in their respective territories with no major offenses. And the one thing I am absolutely confident of is that had we been, you know, had we been in office during this withdrawal, that we would have ensured that those conditions were met.
And if they weren’t met, that we would — we would follow through on the use of force and that we would adjust (ph) and attack accordingly in a manner that put American lives first and the security of our nation first.
I have no doubt whatsoever that you would not have seen the Taliban march into Mazar-e-Sharif without consequence. You would not have seen the Taliban march into Kabul.
And now here we sit with the Taliban in the last 24 hours, you know, making threats if we don’t keep to the August 31st deadline. You know, we shouldn’t be — we shouldn’t be taking orders from the Taliban. We should tell them we’re going to — we’re going to be out when it’s done.
We’re going to be out (ph) when American citizens are out, American troops are out and all of those brave Afghanis that stood with and assisted our effort to defend our freedom in that war-torn land and begin its —
KILMEADE: Would you — would you —
PENCE: — safe passage out of the country.
KILMEADE: Mr. Vice President, would you allow our 5,800 military members to leave the airport and retrieve American citizens and allies — and allies of ours?
PENCE: Well, of course. Look, we have the — and this is — this is — this is owing in part to our administration, we saw the largest increase in investment in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan, Brian. You know that.
I mean, our armed forces demonstrated in Iraq and Syria that when they’re given a mission and they’re given the freedom to prosecute that mission, there is — there is no force in the world that can resist them.
And the very idea that the Armed Forces of the United States would hesitate to take such action as necessary to secure a safe passage for Americans out of Afghanistan is — it’s (INAUDIBLE) of me and to any American. We did (ph) — we ought to do what we need to do. We can do it, our military’s more than capable and we ought to tell the Taliban when we’re done and not be listening to them dictating timetables —
KILMEADE: Well they, did.
PENCE: — to our people.
KILMEADE: Would you take back — you know, Jennifer Griffin asked John Kirby, you know, why don’t you take Bagram Airbase back? Could they have two airfields, it’s much better equipped, it’s much more secure and you can be able to get more flights in and out? And he basically said, we don’t want a Monday morning quarterback. Right now, Vice President Pence, and you’re (ph) always considered a presidential contender in the next cycle in 2024, would you do that? Would you take back Bagram Airbase?
PENCE: Well, I can tell you, I wouldn’t have given it up, Brian. I’ve been to Bagram Air Force Base at least a half a dozen times over my course — the course of my career in the Congress and as governor and as your vice president and the very idea that we abandoned Bagram and now have relegated with the withdrawal effort to a civilian airport with one runway is, for me personally, is just incomprehensible.
And I don’t believe our administration would have done that. I believe the success we achieved in taking down the ISIS caliphate was evidence of having a president that gives our military a mission and tells them, go and get it done and is willing to adjust along the way to allow them to accomplish their mission. And so, absolutely.
My bottom line is, you know, again, I love your history books, Brian.
KILMEADE: Thank you.
PENCE: You remember the — you remember the Battle of the Bulge when German forces issued —
PENCE: — some sort of ultimatum to U.S. Army General at the Battle of the Bulge. And he simply wrote back one word, nuts. And he told them — he told them to get lost. He dug in. And I think we ought to make it very clear to the Taliban that we’re going to be there and we’re going to take such actions as necessary to defend our citizens —
KILMEADE: Right. Got you.
PENCE: — defend our troops and defend our allies in the region.
KILMEADE: And Mr. Vice President, I know you’re a radio guy, too, so you understand I got 45 seconds left. But how do you feel about the president not committing to running with you again for reelection?
PENCE: Look, all my focus actually is on — is on 2022. You know, the president and I have talked many times since the inauguration. And I know he feels the very same way. When you look at the radical left agenda being advanced, I mean, you know, a crisis on the border, a crisis in this disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal, inflation on the rise, a plan for some $5 trillion in big government socialist spending.
PENCE: We have got to win the Congress back. And we’ve got to support conservatives running for governor around the country. I was on the stump just last week with our great candidate in Virginia and I will tell you that all of my energy —
KILMEADE: Got you.
PENCE: — all of my focus is going to be on 2022. We win back —
KILMEADE: And then we’ll talk.
PENCE: — (INAUDIBLE), we in back the Congress and then 2024, we’ll win back America.
KILMEADE: All right, well you did a great job as vice president. It’d be crazy not to run with you. That’s just my opinion. Mr. Vice President, thanks so much, Mike Pence.
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