H.R. McMaster Warns Against 'Self-Delusion' That Afghanistan Withdrawal Means War's End

Former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster warned against "self-delusion" that the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan means the war is over.

"A really good way to honor our service men and women who gave their lives on a modern-day frontier between barbarism and civilization is to end our self-delusion and confront our reality that this endless war, this forever war, has not ended because we left," McMaster, who served under former President Donald Trump, said during an appearance on NBC News' Meet the Press Sunday.

EARLIER: "We all share responsibility" for the Afghanistan war which "ended in self-defeat," says former NSA H.R. McMaster on #MTP@LTGHRMcMaster: The Afghanistan war has been "a one-year war fought 20 times over with ineffective strategies based on flawed assumptions." pic.twitter.com/HiwqH4IjQu

— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) August 29, 2021

He said the war ended in self-defeat while criticizing both the Trump and Biden administrations over the way the American troop withdrawal was handled.

McMaster also said there was a "sustainable effort" in place in 2017 that could have prevented the Taliban's rise to power in Afghanistan—but that then-President Trump abandoned the plan "and doubled down on the same flaws of the Obama administration."

"What we did is surrendered to a Jihadist organization and assumed there would be no consequences for that," he said. "We're seeing the consequences today."

McMaster explained the way the U.S. left "delivered psychological blow after psychological blow" to the Afghan government and security forces, and that it was "impossible" for the Afghan government to "withstand the blows of not being included in the negotiations."

"What is most lamentable about the policy under the Trump administration, and what the Biden administration doubled down on and failed to reverse, is that we actually strengthened the Taliban and weakened the Afghan government and security forces on our way out," he said.

McMaster's comments come as other lawmakers and national security experts also criticize the way the U.S. removed its troops from Afghanistan. Recently, Florida Rep. Michael Waltz, a Republican, said that the withdrawal will lead to the resurgence of Al-Qaeda.

The group ISIS-K claimed the attack at the Kabul airport that killed 13 U.S service members and over 160 Afghans on Thursday, prompting the U.S. to carry an airstrike that killed an ISIS-K planner.

On Saturday, Biden pledged it would not be the final form of retaliation, and that the U.S. would "hunt down any person involved in that heinous attack and make them pay."

During his Meet the Press appearance, McMaster believed the Taliban could have been defeated and that the troops were on a "path to slowly strengthening over time." He added it does not "make sense" to tell the Taliban we're leaving, and that we want to negotiate a settlement.

"What that resulted in is concession after concession to the Taliban, and we got nothing for it," he said.

Newsweek reached out to the White House for a response Sunday, but had not heard back by publication. This story will be updated with any response.

In an earlier interview with the PBS program Firing Line that aired on Friday, McMaster suggested the Taliban may have incited the Kabul airport attack as part of an effort to "humiliate" the U.S. ahead of its withdrawal from Afghanistan.

H.R. McMaster
Former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster warned against “self-delusion” that the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan means the war is over. Here, he attends a joint news conference in the White House on April 3, 2018. Alex Wong/Getty Images