Washington, D.C. – September 8th, 2019 – On Sunday’s Face The Nation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained to host Margaret Brennan that President Trump’s cancellation of negotiations with the Taliban was due to his realization that there is no chance of success. Because the Taliban has not delivered on its promise to reduce violence, the President will not host the historic meeting at Camp David.
With regard to any future changes in strategy, Secretary Pompeo would not comment. He compared the Trump administration’s ability to “fight and talk” with prior administrations’ refusal to negotiate while maintaining firm military pressure.
Former Secretary of Defense and former National Security Advisor, General James N. Mattis, U.S.M.C., Ret., commends every effort to end war. Ms. Brennan described Taliban history, given their role in providing safe haven for Osama bin Laden, who orchestrated the 9/11/01 attacks on America that killed thousands. Mattis contrasted negotiations with the Taliban to negotiations with Russia over the nuclear drawdown. Our policy was “trust and verify.” With the Taliban, we should “verify then trust.”
Mattis stated the heart of the issue: On September 11th, 2001, three thousand people from 91 countries were murdered by Al Qaeda. General Mattis said we must demand a Taliban break with Al Qaeda. He concurred with Secretary Pompeo’s earlier assertions and said, “We must return to first principles.” He indicated that the Taliban must stop fomenting violence. The government and people of Afghanistan must be strong enough to stand on their own and deny safe haven to terrorist groups before the United States withdraws from the region. When asked about the President’s goal to bring home troops, as well as all Democrat candidates’ running with the same goal for 2020, he said: “You may want a war over, but the enemy always gets a vote.”
Asked if the United States has been distracted by trying to do too much too soon, Mattis replied, “Maybe“. He said goals should be limited when trying to turn another culture over in a couple of years’ time, especially when the people have been ideologically the same for so long. Fundamentally, the primary focus of the United States is to keep its influence in the region, and not limit resources for our military.
Ms. Brennan acknowledged General Mattis’ refusal to speak out against President Trump “out of respect” and pointed out his discussion of Obama and Biden in his new book, (Call Sign Chaos: A Call to Lead. Mattis, J. and West, B., Random House, September 3, 2019). The General said he began writing a history book. Had he known Vice President Biden would be running for president, he would not have been as forthcoming. Passages within the book reveal that despite the pleas of the Intelligence Community, President Obama insisted on leaving Iraq. At the time, Iraq was in a “post-combat, pre-reconciliation” phase and unready to self-govern. Intelligence sources correctly forecasted the formation of ISIS. When asked who is responsible, Mattis “cannot answer.” Vice President Biden seemed “indifferent” to the consequences of early withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Obama administration is portrayed by its refusals to heed multiple warnings from the Intelligence Community.
Ms. Brennan asked if Mattis’ resignation was because of President Trump’s hands-off policy in Syria. There was no clear answer. Ms. Brennan noted his claim that Pakistan is the most dangerous country in the world; examined his position on external threats, Russia and China and revisions to the National Military Strategy for contingencies in these countries. An unclassified summary of the 2018 National Military Strategy, which Mattis helped draft, has been posted on the Joint Staff website here.
Finally, General Mattis was asked about the biggest internal threat to the United States. He believes it is two-fold. The first threat is the lack of fiscal discipline in the face of growing debt. The second is the lack of friendliness and increasing contempt among our people and our leadership. Ms. Brennan and General Mattis agreed upon the utmost importance of friendly cooperation.
Author’s Note: Above is a summary of interviews conducted on Face The Nation with Secretary of State Mike R. Pompeo, (partial), and former National Security Advisor, General James N. Mattis, U.S.M.C., Ret., (full). CBS’ published transcript of the Mattis interview may be found here.