John Bolton plays hard ball in the Russia-Taliban bounty story

Putting Pompeo’s presser today together with Bolton’s book leads me to the following conclusions about how Trump and his Admin got into this mess — from which they won’t get out alive politically. It’s the backstory that helps explain everything. 1/14

We know from Bolton’s book — and many other sources — that Trump is determined to get all U.S. troops and support personnel out of Afghanistan. He has promised to do so, and his base and talking heads like Tucker Carlson are pressuring him to do it. 2/14

Problem: doing that would create a vacuum and likely lead to incalculable dangers for the U.S. in that very unstable part of the world. So military and national security advisers to date have tried to prevent a withdrawal. Bolton was one of these. 3/14

What we can glean from Pompeo’s presser today is that: (1) Russia certainly had the bounty arrangements with the Taliban; (2) Russia did it partly in retaliation for our supporting the Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgency in Afghanistan when the Soviet Union had troops there; 4/14

(3) the Administration is hopeful that a deal can be reached with Putin that might make a stable Afghanistan possible after the departure of American troops. 5/14

Mike Pompeo Press Conference Transcript — Talks Inspector General Firing — RevSecretary of State Mike Pompeo held a press briefing today, his first since the firing of State Department Inspector General & watchdog Steve Linick. Pompeo said the firing should have happened “a lo…

Afghanistan is much closer to Russia than the U.S., and Russia has much more to fear from Islamic extremism in Afghanistan than we do. Pompeo mentioned this in his presser today, 6/14

and implied that this was the basis for the Administration’s hope that a deal on Afghanistan with Putin could be reached. 7/14

Trump has always regarded Ukraine as nothing more than an obstacle to dealing with Putin. So it may be significant that Pompeo didn’t rule out the possibility today that Trump would continue to invite Russia to join the G7. 8/14

Trump would certainly throw Ukraine under the bus to get a grand deal with Putin, so Ukraine might very well be a bargaining chip in Trump’s mind in negotiations with Russia over the future of Afghanistan. 9/14

Now we know from his book that Bolton thinks that a withdrawal from Afghanistan would be disastrous for the U.S., and there is no doubt that Bolton thinks it absurd to believe that Trump (of all people) could negotiate a good deal for the U.S. with Putin (of all people). 10/14

All this goes a long way toward explaining (but certainly not justifying!) why the Administration did nothing when it knew — as it certainly did — that Russia was paying bounties for dead American soldiers in Afghanistan. 11/14

To spell it out: Pompeo (at the behest of Trump) didn’t want to challenge Putin over the bounty arrangement, because Pompeo was trying to reach an agreement with Putin to make it possible for the US to exit Afghanistan, and confrontation would have jeopardized that effort. 12/14

Problem: Bolton knew as well as anyone what was up, and he was horrified. So recently, Bolton started leaking the utterly damaging information that Russia was paying the Taliban and criminal elements in Afghanistan up to $100K for each dead American soldier. 13/14

Trump is a fool for thinking he could gamble and play with dynamite (Putin) in the way he did and everything just blew up on him.

One thing you can say about John Bolton: he knows how to play hard ball. 14/14

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