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Fmr. SEAL boss McRaven slams Trump’s Taliban peace talks, like ‘sitting down with ISIS’

U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven makes remarks during his retirement ceremony on August 28, 2014. (SSG Sean K. Harp/Department of Defense)
September 19, 2019

The U.S. Navy’s once highest-ranked SEAL and former head of U.S. Special Operations, who oversaw the mission to take out Osama bin Laden, likened President Donald Trump’s efforts at a peace deal with the Taliban to negotiating with the Islamic State terrorist group.

Retired Adm. William McRaven suggested the futility of negotiating with Taliban leadership during discussions Wednesday at the New America Special Operations Forces Policy Forum in Washington, Military Times reported. McRaven’s critical remarks warned against a deal between the U.S. and the Taliban, and said making concessions to the group would only embolden extremism and threaten the progress made towards Afghan political stability.

“I do believe that if we negotiate some sort of settlement with the Taliban, and that settlement involves the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, that, you know, it won’t be six months or a year before all of the blood and treasure we have put into Afghanistan will have been reversed,” McRaven said.

McRaven, who now works at the University of Texas in Austin as a national security professor, said he never agreed with the peace talks, even from the start. He pointed to the ability of young girls to attend school and women to participate in the political process as measures of success in Afghanistan that would likely be reversed by a deal between the U.S. and the Taliban.

He said that to maintain political stability, “we have to accept the fact . . . that we’re going to be there for a very long time.”

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Though he acknowledged the U.S. mission in Afghanistan has shifted many times over the years, from hunting al Qaeda, to preventing the Taliban from regaining control and eventually to supporting the establishment of a democratic government, he voiced concerns Afghanistan’s democratic government isn’t ready to maintain that order on its own.

Negotiations for an Afghan peace deal have stalled since Trump cancelled peace talks to be held at Camp David. He cited a Taliban car-bombing in Kabul, which killed a U.S. soldier and 11 others as an unacceptable action during the ongoing peace talks.

Trump later said a deal with the Taliban was “dead,” but last week the Taliban urged a return to negotiations.

McRaven’s criticism of the deal isn’t the first example of a fractious relationship with Trump. In August 2018, he criticized Trump’s decision to revoke former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance and offered up his own clearance for revocation as a measure of protest.

“I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency,” McRaven wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.

McRaven has also criticized Trump’s relationship with the media, which Trump has frequently described as unfairly reporting on him and writing “fake news.” McRaven said Trump’s criticism of the media is the “greatest threat to our democracy.”

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Trump has suggested McRaven’s own comments have been politically motivated, calling him a “Hillary Clinton backer and an Obama backer.”