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Hundreds of people gather outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. (AP) Hundreds of people gather outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. (AP)

Hundreds of people gather outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher August 17, 2021

Trump didn’t say he ‘trusted’ Taliban, but did plan earlier Afghanistan exit than Biden

If Your Time is short

  • Trump signed a deal with the Taliban that, subject to conditions, would have resulted in the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 2021.

  • Biden pledged to remove all troops before Sept. 11, 2021.

  • We found no statements in which Trump said he trusted the Taliban.

As President Joe Biden’s removal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan quickly led to the country falling under the Taliban’s control, a liberal group made a claim comparing Biden with former President Donald Trump. 

"Major breaking," the widely shared Instagram post said. "So many Republicans now blasting Biden for this exit didn’t say s*** last year when Trump actually said he trusted the Taliban and then set in motion an even earlier exit. I remember. Do you?"

The claim was by Occupy Democrats, an anti-Trump group that says it works with Democrats. It has 356,000 followers on Instagram and more than 10 million on Facebook.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

We did not find any instances in which Trump said he trusted the Taliban. An Occupy Democrats cofounder cited Trump statements about his optimism to make a deal with the Taliban. We searched Google, Nexis, a Trump Twitter archive and a database of Trump speeches, and contacted four experts.

Trump did make an agreement with the Taliban that would have resulted in the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan before Biden ultimately withdrew the troops. 

In a general sense, the U.S. was expecting that the Taliban would follow through with, for example, negotiating with the Afghanistan government, said Marvin Weinbaum, director of Afghanistan and Pakistan Studies at the Middle East Institute and a former Afghanistan specialist at the U.S. State Department.

The agreement amounted to "promises on their part and actual commitment on our part," he said.

The United States had been in Afghanistan militarily since the 9/11 attacks almost 20 years ago. Here’s a timeline of recent events under Trump and Biden. 

Trump’s actions and statements

Feb. 29, 2020 — Trump makes U.S.-Taliban deal: The U.S. signed an agreement with the Taliban that paved the way for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan to conclude by May  2021, if certain conditions were met. The deal featured guarantees from the Taliban to "prevent the use of the soil of Afghanistan by any group or individual against the security of the United States and its allies." 

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In remarks about the deal, Trump expressed hope but reservations about the Taliban, saying of its leaders, "We'll be very much hoping that they will be doing what they say they're going to be doing. They will be killing terrorists. They will be killing some very bad people. They will keep that fight going."

In a speech the same day, Trump reiterated his optimism but again stopped short of saying he trusted the Taliban. "And if the Taliban and the Afghan government live up to their commitments — and they may or they may not, but I think we have a lot of reason why they will. I think they will," he said.

Asked March 5, 2020, in a Fox News town hall if he could trust the Taliban, Trump didn’t directly answer the question. He gave a long response, starting with: "So these are warriors. We've been there for 20 years. We're really serving more as a law enforcement group than a military group. We could win that war very easily but I don't feel like killing millions of people in order to do it. We don't want to do that, you don't want to do that, nobody wants to do that."

Sept. 18, 2020 — Trump praised Taliban: A year after Trump considered inviting the Taliban to Camp David for peace talks, he again expressed optimism but some wariness, saying: "We’re dealing very well with the Taliban. They’re very tough. They’re very smart. They’re very sharp, but you know, it’s been 19 years and even they are tired of fighting, in all fairness." He added: "We’re having some very good discussions with the Taliban, as you probably heard. It’s been public. But we’ll be down to, very shortly, we’ll be down to less than 4,000 soldiers. We’ll be out of there, knowing that certain things have to happen. Certain things have to be fulfilled, but 19 years is a long time."

Nov. 17, 2020 — Trump announced troop reduction: Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller announced that Trump had decided that by Jan. 15, 2021, the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan would be reduced from 5,000 to 2,500. 

Biden’s actions

April 14, 2021 — Biden revised withdrawal plan: Biden announced that the May 1 deadline set by Trump’s U.S.-Taliban agreement would not be met, but that full withdrawal of troops would begin May 1 and end before Sept. 11. No conditions for the withdrawal were set. 

July 8, 2021 — Military mission to end: Biden said the military mission in Afghanistan would end Aug. 31. By Aug. 16, the Afghanistan government had fallen to the Taliban.

Our ruling

Occupy Democrats said that Trump in 2020 "said he trusted the Taliban and then set in motion an even earlier exit" from Afghanistan.

We found no statements in which Trump said he trusted the Taliban. Trump signed a deal with the Taliban that, subject to conditions, would have resulted in the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 2021, months before Biden’s withdrawal of the troops. 

We rate the statement Half True.

PolitiFact researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this fact-check.

Our Sources

Instagram, post, Aug. 15, 2021

Email, Rafael Rivero, Occupy Democrats cofounder, Aug. 16, 2021

PolitiFact, "RNC speakers exaggerate Trump’s military drawdown from ‘endless wars,’" Aug. 26, 2020

U.S. State Department, "Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and the United States of America," Feb. 29, 2020

U.S. State Department, "Secretary Michael R. Pompeo At a Press Availability After the Afghanistan Signing Ceremony," Feb. 29, 2020

Washington Post, "As Trump’s term nears close, administration announces troop level cuts in Afghanistan and Iraq," Nov. 17, 2020 

Trump Twitter Archive.com, search of Donald Trump tweets, Aug. 16, 2021

Factbase, Fox News town hall transcript, March 5, 2020

Factbase, "Speech: Donald Trump Delivers a Speech at the 2020 CPAC Convention in Maryland," Feb. 29, 2020

Email, Barnett Rubin, non-resident senior fellow at the 

Center on International Cooperation, New York University, and Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, Aug. 17, 2021

BBC, "Afghan conflict: US and Taliban sign deal to end 18-year war," Feb. 29, 2020

Fox News, Donald Trump interview transcript, Aug. 2, 2019

Verify This, "Yes, former President Trump made a deal with the Taliban to pull US troops out of Afghanistan by May 2021," Aug. 16, 2021 

CNN, "Transcripts," Feb. 29, 2020

The White House, "Remarks by President Biden on the Way Forward in Afghanistan," April 14, 2021

The White House, "Remarks by President Biden on the Drawdown of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan," July 8, 2021

Rev.com, "Donald Trump Press Conference Transcript September 18: COVID-19, Puerto Rico," Sept. 18, 2020

Council on Foreign Relations, "The U.S. War in Afghanistan 1999 – 2021," accessed Aug. 16, 2021

U.S. Defense Department, "Acting Secretary Miller Announcement on Afghanistan and Iraq Troop Levels," Nov. 17, 2020

Interview, Jason Campbell, RAND Corp. policy researcher and from June 2016 through September 2018, country director for Afghanistan in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, Aug. 16, 2021

Interview, Colin Clarke, director of policy and research at the Soufan Group and former terrorism reseacher at Carnegie Mellon University, Aug. 16, 2021

Interview, Marvin Weinbaum, director of Afghanistan and Pakistan Studies at the Middle East Institute and former Afghanistan specialist at the State Department, Aug. 17, 2021

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Trump didn’t say he ‘trusted’ Taliban, but did plan earlier Afghanistan exit than Biden

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