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Analysis: Donald Trump’s recounting of his 2020 conversation with a Taliban leader is something else

One answer — one very loooooong answer — stood out to me. It came after Hewitt asked Trump to describe his conversation with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a Taliban co-founder and deputy leader, during his 2020 negotiations with the group to remove American troops from Afghanistan. (Trump talked to Hewitt before the explosions at the Kabul airport on Thursday morning.)

Hewitt: What did you communicate to Baradar, Mullah Baradar, Abdul Baradar who you talked to when you spoke to him? What did you tell him?

Trump: So I set up a conversation with him, and people said oh, you shouldn’t be talking. Well, I set up a conversation with Kim Jong Un of North Korea. We didn’t have a nuclear war. Had I not, then Obama would have been right. We would have had a nuclear war. President Obama said to me we’re going to have a nuclear war with North Korea. I said have you ever spoken to him. He said no. And I said don’t you think that might be a good idea. But anyway, I know he wanted to speak to him, but he never got to speak to him, and I think the other side didn’t want to talk to Obama. So what happened is I spoke to the head of the, the known head, because it’s…

Hewitt: Yeah, Baradar, right? Baradar.

Trump: Yeah, but I spoke to, and sort of the known head, but nobody was sure, but now I’m sure, and I was sure then when I was speaking to him. And I knew as soon as I spoke to him. And even the introduction, I say hello, and he screamed something very tough. And I then started with him. I said, listen, before we start the longtime conversation and conversations that we’re going to have, I have to say one thing, and I’ll never have to say it again to you. And here’s what I say. If you do anything bad to the United States of America, if you do anything bad to any of our civilians, to any American citizen, or if you do anything out of the normal, you know, they’ve been fighting for a thousand years, but out of the normal, because you’ve had your wars, and if you do anything out of the normal, but anything bad to America or any American citizens, I will hit you harder than anybody has ever been hit in world history. You will be hit harder than any country and any person has ever been hit in world history. And we will start with the exact location and the exact town, and it’s right here. And I believe I repeated the name of his town. That will be the first place that we start. And I won’t be able to speak to you anymore after that, and isn’t that a very sad thing? But that is the story. And then he asked me one question, and I’d rather not repeat that question, because it’s a very scary question. But he asked me one question, and I gave him the answer yes. And then after it was all done, I said OK, now I’ve said what I’m going to say. Let’s have a conversation. And I said we’re going to be leaving after 21 years. And when we leave, you’re going to leave us alone, and we’re going to leave with great dignity and great honor. And we are going to take care of this situation. We’re going to take our time. We had a date of May 1, but they missed a couple of conditions. We had some very strong conditions, Hugh. But they missed a couple of conditions. I wanted to be out by May 1. I had spoken to him quite a bit before May 1, but we had a condition of May 1. But they missed conditions, and so therefore, I bombed and we hit them very hard. And then we said we will agree to those conditions. I said no, you’ve already agreed to them. Don’t play games. We had them so good. They weren’t in Kabul. You take a look at when they started taking over Afghanistan. It’s when I left. When I left, that’s when it started, they started going wild, because they were dealing with another president. And I never realized, and of course I realized the importance and power of the presidency, but I never realized how important the office of the president is until this happened, because when I watched what happened over the last week and a half with some horrible, stupid decisions that were made, number one being allowing our military to leave before the civilians and before we get all of our equipment back, $83 billion dollars. And not, nobody can even comprehend that much equipment. Thousands of vehicles, thousands, you saw the list of vehicles.

Let’s leave aside the fact that it appears as though Trump simply doesn’t know Baradar’s name — even with prompting from Hewitt. And that Trump claimed that he single-handedly averted nuclear war because he sat down with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Instead, focus on Trump’s description of his conversation with Baradar. And start here: The answer runs 588 words. That’s roughly three and a half minutes of speaking — uninterrupted. Which, well, wow.

Now to what Trump actually said:

* “I spoke to, and sort of the known head, but nobody was sure, but now I’m sure, and I was sure then when I was speaking to him. And I knew as soon as I spoke to him. And even the introduction, I say hello, and he screamed something very tough.” If I am reading this right, Trump wasn’t sure that Baradar was the head of the Taliban when the conversation first started but he figured it out once Baradar “screamed something very tough.”

* “If you do anything bad to the United States of America, if you do anything bad to any of our civilians, to any American citizen, or if you do anything out of the normal, you know, they’ve been fighting for a 1,000 years, but out of the normal, because you’ve had your wars, and if you do anything out of the normal, but anything bad to America or any American citizens, I will hit you harder than anybody has ever been hit in world history.” This sentence is 85 words long. And it ends with Trump recounting that he told Baradar that if the Taliban hurt any Americans that Trump would “hit you harder than anybody has ever been hit in world history.” Which, well, would be pretty hard. Also, Trump’s description of Afghanistan’s history — “you’ve had your wars” — is truly remarkable.

* “And then he asked me one question, and I’d rather not repeat that question, because it’s a very scary question. But he asked me one question, and I gave him the answer yes.” I truly have no idea what that one question could have possibly been. And why would Trump not want to tell it to Hewitt?

* “I wanted to be out by May 1. I had spoken to him quite a bit before May 1, but we had a condition of May 1. But they missed conditions, and so therefore, I bombed and we hit them very hard.”
Trump using the word “I” to describe a bombing campaign is not surprising, given what we know about him. But it is still a little surreal.

* “And I never realized, and of course I realized the importance and power of the presidency, but I never realized how important the office of the president is until this happened, because when I watched what happened over the last week and a half with some horrible, stupid decisions that were made, number one being allowing our military to leave before the civilians and before we get all of our equipment back, $83 billion dollars.” So, Trump never realized the power of the presidency until after he had left office and was watching the Afghanistan situation from afar? Really? Of course, he also contradicts himself in the same answer when he says “of course I realized the importance and power of the presidency” right before he says “I never realized how important the office of the president is.” So….

The back-and-forth is, well, something else.

That it lands on the same day that so many Republicans have been so quick to bash President Joe Biden for his handling of the drawdown of the US presence in Afghanistan should serve as a reminder that Trump’s foreign policy knowledge and bona fides were absolutely paper thin.
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