Gen. Frank McKenzie, a former commander of the United States Central Command, said Sunday the Taliban’s relationship with al-Qaeda is “far stronger” than with the United States. 

McKenzie was shown a clip of President Biden in June where he responded to some of the documented failures of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, telling reporters, “Remember what I said about Afghanistan? I said al-Qaeda would not be there. I said it wouldn’t be there. I said we get help from the Taliban. I was right.” 

When asked on CBS’s “Face The Nation” about Biden’s description of the U.S. working with the Taliban, McKenzie said, “While [the Taliban] might … make some temporary accommodation as they did when we withdrew from Afghanistan, they weren’t to be trusted, and they actually have a long-term familial and customary relationship with al-Qaeda, and it’s very difficult to think that would change. I think that relationship is far stronger than any potential relationship they choose with the United States.”

McKenzie said everything he read in intelligence reporting up until April 2022 led him to believe the Taliban would act only in the light of their very best interests. 

In February 2020, the U.S. reached a deal with the Taliban, known as the Doha Agreement, wherein the U.S. agreed to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by May 2021. In exchange, the Taliban agreed to participate in a peace process and refrain from attacking U.S. troopers and threatening Afghanistan’s major cities. 

More than a year later, the Biden administration withdrew U.S. troops from Afghanistan in August 2021 in a chaotic two-week evacuation, promoting later criticism from House Republicans over how the administration handled the situation.

McKenzie retired from active duty in April, months after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. He previously said he advised Biden to maintain 2,500 troopers in the country, but Biden instead pursued a complete withdrawal.

Last year, McKenzie warned of a reduced intelligence capability in Afghanistan after the U.S. withdrawal, saying he believes the U.S. has a “very, very limited ability to see into Afghanistan.”

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