WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – US National Security Council Advisor, Amb. John Bolton, abruptly left the White House on Tuesday, following an argument with President Donald Trump the night before.
The sudden news of Bolton’s departure caught even White House staff by surprise, as they had announced that Bolton would be speaking at a briefing to announce new, broad-based terrorism sanctions on the eve of the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
However, by the time that 1:30 p.m. briefing rolled around, Bolton had left the administration and was not present in the White House briefing room to speak alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, as originally planned.
Until a permanent replacement for Bolton is chosen, deputy national security adviser, Charles Kupperman, will become acting National Security Advisor.
Trump and Bolton argued about Afghanistan on Monday night, CNN reported. Trump had originally planned to host a trilateral meeting at Camp David, the presidential retreat in western Maryland, with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and representatives of the Taliban.
The meeting was intended to produce an understanding between the two that would allow the US (and other NATO allies) to withdraw their forces from Afghanistan. Bolton, however, had opposed such a meeting.
Although it may be hard to comprehend now, George W. Bush, who launched the US intervention in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks, believed that he had won that war already in December 2001.
Instead, the Afghan war has become the longest war in US history, and Trump has been seeking a way to bring it to an end.
Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad, the State Department Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, had been working for nearly a year on negotiations with the Taliban that were to culminate in the Camp David meeting.
However, Trump canceled it on Saturday, following a Taliban attack in Kabul that killed a dozen people, including a US service member.
Bolton is well-known as a conservative hawk—although on conventional national security grounds. Bolton has not favored war to promote democracy abroad, a policy that Bush embraced, or at least seemed to embrace.
Bolton opposed the proposed Camp David meeting with the Taliban (as did Vice President Mike Pence). He also thought the Trump administration needed to be tougher on Russia.
And from a Kurdish perspective, it is important to note that another point of tension between Bolton and Trump was northeast Syria. Bolton opposed Trump’s decision last December, following a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to withdraw US forces from Syria.
Others opposed it as well, including Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who resigned over it, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (Republican, South Carolina), a major figure in the formulation of US national security policy and an important Trump ally in the US Congress.
Consequently, Trump partly reversed his decision and agreed to keep a smaller contingent of US forces there, while recruiting allies to help fill the gap. Most recently, Denmark agreed to send a unit of medical personnel to northeast Syria.
Bolton has long been sympathetic to Kurdish political aspirations. In September 2017, shortly before the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum, while he was still a private citizen and before he became National Security Adviser, Bolton expressed those sympathies to Kurdistan 24.
“I think the Kurdish people have been without a voice for far too long,” he told Kurdistan 24 shortly before the referendum.
“If their decision is to seek independence for [the Kurdistan Region], I think the United States should recognize it.”
Bolton also described Iraq as a failed state, adding, “I don’t think that the old Iraq that we knew is ever coming back,” and “the sooner we understand that, the better.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany