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Mick Mulvaney served as acting White House Chief of Staff for 14 months. Oliver Contreras/CNP/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Live News

Biden won’t run in 2024 after Afghanistan ‘travesty’, says Trump's ex-chief of staff

Mick Mulvaney spoke to The Journal about Afghanistan, the Good Friday Agreement and quitting the Trump administration.

THE UNITED STATES’ chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan has put an end to President Joe Biden’s hopes of running for re-election in 2024, a former White House chief of staff for Donald Trump has said.

Republican Mick Mulvaney, who held the important Chief of Staff role (albeit in an ‘acting’ capacity) for more than a year in the tumultuous Trump White House, says the “travesty” in Afghanistan has ensured that Biden will not be the Democrat candidate when the US presidential election rolls around in 2024.

The politician from South Carolina, who has family roots in Co Mayo, told The Journal that the decision to leave Afghanistan has overwhelming support in the United States.

However, the execution of the plan under Biden’s watch will ensure that the Delaware Democrat only serves one term as president, he insists.

“​​How can we be so surprised? How can we be so unprepared? How could it go so poorly? So, the country is criticising Biden, but it’s not for the decision to leave, it’s the manner in which it is being executed,” Mulvaney said.

The Trump administration signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February 2020, towards the end of Mulvaney’s time as acting Chief of Staff. President Biden has said the so-called Doha agreement bound him to withdraw American troops and set the stage for the chaos that has engulfed Afghanistan.

The argument has been given short shrift by Republicans who say that Biden should have renegotiated the arrangement if he thought the deal was bad and, ultimately, he chose to stay in the accord.

Mulvaney, who resigned from the Trump administration in the wake of the US Capitol riot, says the decision to complete the withdrawal in August was largely influenced by the Biden administration’s political desire to have a public relations campaign on the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

“They wanted to have all of the troops out by 9/11, September 11, so that they could go on TV and say, ‘it’s now the 20th anniversary of another terrorist attack, and we’ve just ended the war’.

That is a tremendously poor decision making process. To allow politics and public relations to dictate military operations is a tremendous mistake and it probably will be at the end of any chance Biden has to run for re-election.

The former US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland added that the disastrous withdrawal revealed that the Biden administration gave very little consideration as to how to get United States citizens and Afghans who worked with the US out of the country.

“It’s been an absolute travesty and a disaster from an execution standpoint, driven in large part by the fact that the calendar is driven by politics and public relations,” he said.

embedded262114266 Families evacuated from Kabul reach Washington, DC. Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP / AP

Elaborating on how the Afghanistan fiasco might limit Biden’s presidency to one-term, the former Trump aide explained that he has long believed that Biden would not run again because the 78-year-old would struggle with the rigours of the campaign trail.

“He won in 2020, in large part because he wasn’t required to campaign. People were okay with him staying at home, literally in his house, because of Covid. It’s unlikely they would tolerate that type of inactivity again,” Mulvaney said.

“So, for a variety of reasons, I didn’t think he was going to run again anyway. That being said, if he had any designs on running for re-election this probably puts a nail in the coffin.

You cannot make a mistake of this gravity, at this level, on this worldwide stage and then turn around in roughly two years and ask people to send you back to office.

Looking at the geopolitical repercussions of the Afghanistan exit, Mulvaney poured cold water on the thread of analysis that suggests that it signals the end of the United States’ time as the dominant world power.

Rather, he said ending the US involvement in Afghanistan was one one of the few issues that has bipartisan support in America and compared it to the end of the Vietnam war. “Did Vietnam somewhat limit American geopolitical influence? Maybe. Was it the end of it? Absolutely not. And I think this is probably the same in the same boat,” he said.

Northern Ireland

Other issues Mulvaney listed as having bipartisan support in the US were growing antipathy towards China and the importance of protecting the Good Friday Agreement.

He noted that while the US is not a guarantor of the agreement it “certainly has an active interest in maintaining it”. He said that the agreement would be relevant to the discussion in any talks the US has regarding any trade agreement with the UK.

washington-united-states-of-america-17-october-2019-white-house-acting-chief-of-staff-mick-mulvaney-speaks-with-reporters-in-the-james-brady-press-briefing-room-at-the-white-house-october-17-2019 Mick Mulvaney is in Ireland for the Kennedy Summer School. Joyce Boghosian / White House Photo/Alamy Live News Joyce Boghosian / White House Photo/Alamy Live News / White House Photo/Alamy Live News

Earlier this week US congressman Brendan Boyle told The Journal it would be “completely unacceptable” for the UK to abandon the Northern Ireland protocol, which deals with keeping the border open between Ireland and the North.

Mulvaney agreed with his Democrat counterpart, saying that when he was Special Envoy he warned UK Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis about Britain’s actions regarding the protocol.

“On several occasions, the UK acted unilaterally, in apparent contradiction to an agreement they’d already signed. That’s the sort of thing that gets everybody’s attention whenever you want to sign any agreement.

When you sign a deal, and then six months later, six weeks later, say, ‘we’re gonna change it unilaterally’. That’s a red flag. And certainly, when that happens on something that is tangential to the Good Friday Agreement that it gets our attention.

Boyle and Mulvaney will be at the Kennedy Summer School, a festival of Irish and American culture and politics, this evening for a panel on the polarisation of US politics.

Mulvaney’s old position of US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland has been empty since he resigned from the role in the aftermath of the riot at the US Capitol Building by Donald Trump supporters in January.

The Republican’s analysis of the job not being filled is that Biden was trying to handle the role himself.

“The unspoken word in Washington was that when it came to Northern Ireland Joe Biden was going to be his own Special Envoy. And there’s nothing wrong with that, generally, because this is an issue that he’s familiar with… and this is something that’s important to him personally,” Mulvaney said.

However, Mulvaney says Biden and his administration are learning that the demands of being US president means he has to prioritise issues of national importance above ones that he has deep personal interest in.

Believe me, Northern Ireland is the furthest thing from Joe Biden’s mind right now and rightly so.

“Afghanistan, puts everything to the back of the line. So I’m hopeful that they are coming to the conclusion that, as much as Joe Biden wants to be personally involved, he needs to go ahead and hire a Special Envoy, if for nothing else, to send a message to all the relevant players that the topics are important.”

The storming of the US Capitol

Mulvaney served as acting White House Chief of Staff for 14 months, taking up the role in January 2019 as a temporary replacement for General John Kelly. Trump eventually handed the job to his close Congressional ally, Mark Meadows in March 2020 and Mulvaney was appointed US Special Envoy for Northern Ireland.

january-6th-2021-dc-capitol-riot-last-minutes-of-standoff-police-heavily-using-tear-gas-pushing-protesters-out-of-us-capitol-building-usa Mulvaney resigned following the riot at the US Capitol Building in January. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

He officially resigned from the part-time position in the wake of the Trump supporters rioting at the US Capitol Building on 6 January this year. Reflecting on that decision nearly nine months later, Mulvaney says he’s “100% satisfied that it was the exact right thing to do”.

“To a certain extent, once you’re the Chief of Staff, you always play sort of the same role and the Chief of Staff is the person who sometimes has to tell the president things he doesn’t want to hear,” Mulvaney said.

What I think was happening on January 6, and in the run-up to that day, was that people were telling the president what they thought he wanted to hear, they weren’t telling him hard truths.

“Even though I was no longer Chief of Staff, I still considered that I was doing my job when I resigned. That was the only way at that particular time that I could deliver the message, the hard message, to the president that maybe what he was hearing from his current advisors was not accurate. It was not right.

“He was hearing what they thought he wanted to hear, he was not hearing the facts. So no, I absolutely stand by the decision.”

The Kennedy Summer School is taking place in New Ross until 4 September. The full programme of events can be viewed here.

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