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Former UN Amb. John Bolton: ‘public opinion has turned’ against the war in Afghanistan

John Bolton speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
July 11, 2021

Former ambassador to the United Nationsand national security adviser to President Donald Trump,John Bolton, blamed the past three U.S. presidents Thursday for allowing public opinion to turn against the nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan.

“I do think that public opinion has turned against this war and I blame it squarely on our political leadership for at least the last 12 years,” Bolton told Chuck Todd, host of NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” “We have not had presidents who articulated clearly the reason why we were there.”

Bolton’s comments came on the day President Joe Biden announced his decision to fully withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Aug. 31. The military handed over control of Bagram Airfield to Afghan security forces last week, signaling an end to its combat role in the region.

Bolton, who clashed with Trump over inviting the Taliban to Camp David for negotiations, told Todd that Biden, Trump and former President Barack Obama had a responsibility to establish a deadline for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

“I think if our political leadership had explained the nature of the mission — recognizing it was protracted — the American people would have understood it. That’s how the American people understood the protracted nature of the American deployments in Germany and Japan to win the Cold War, which we did. And in fact, our troops are still there,” Bolton said.

“When people explain the reason and the reasons are good, the American people will support the disposition of American forces to protect them,” he continued.

Bolton has often advocated for military action and aggressive foreign policy. As ambassador to the U.N. under former President George W. Bush, he strongly supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq based on a claim that the government was hoarding weapons of mass destruction. The claim was unfounded, but the occupation ended the regime of late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

But Bolton indicated Thursday that withdrawal is in Americans’ best interest when he told Todd the U.S. cannot win the war.

“We would all like to quote, unquote ‘win the war.’ Unfortunately, the disposition of terrorist forces in Afghanistan and many other parts of the world hasn’t allowed that to happen,” he said. “But the question is, would you rather protect against renewed terrorist attacks against the United States in places like Afghanistan or would you rather try to do it in the streets and skies above America?” ll: this quote doesn’t sound like he’s saying withdrawal is the best option. I’m a little confused.

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