US Secretary of State Antony Blinken advocates withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying Washington wanted to concentrate on China and the pandemic.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended the country’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, saying the “terror” threat had shifted elsewhere, and that Washington wanted to concentrate attention on issues like China and the pandemic.
Last week, President Joe Biden declared that nearly 2,500 U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan before the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks that caused America’s longest war.
Blinken met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and senior U.S. officials in Kabul last week and briefed them on Biden’s declaration that he was ending the “eternal war,” which began in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Blinken told ABC that the US had “accomplished the goals we set ourselves.”
“Al-Qaeda degraded dramatically. His ability to threaten the U.S. now from Afghanistan is not there,” he said.
Over 100,000 soldiers from the Pentagon are stationed in Afghanistan.Thousands more work as part of a 9,600-strong NATO coalition simultaneously withdrawing.
The delay in withdrawal—even by just over four months—has angered the Taliban, threatening to resume hostilities against US troops.
Blinken said Washington could see every Taliban move “in real-time” and take action.
“If they start anything up again, they’ll be in a long war that’s not in their favour either,” he said.
‘No future post-pullout assurances’
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, meanwhile, said no one can make assurances about Afghanistan’s future after U.S. troops leave, even as he emphasized that the U.S. will remain focused on “terrorism threats” from the region.
Sullivan said Biden had no intention of sending American forces back to Afghanistan, but added: “I can’t guarantee what’s going to happen within the country. Nobody will. “
“All the U.S. should do is provide support and capabilities to the Afghan security forces, the Afghan government, and the Afghan people, training and equipping their forces, assisting their government. We’ve done that, and now it’s time for American troops and Afghan citizens to step up to protect their own land. “
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani dismissed what he said were “false analogies” with the Vietnam war, as well as any suggestion that his government would crumble under Taliban pressure after US troops left.
Afghan security forces could defend the country, he said.
“Over the past two years, Afghan defence and security forces have carried out over 90% of operations,” Ghani said in an interview with the CNN network.
In a tweet, former President Donald Trump said leaving Afghanistan was “a great and constructive thing to do,” but called for a faster departure. Trump set a May 1 withdrawal deadline.
Last week, CIA director William Burns told the Senate Intelligence Committee that America’s ability to gather intelligence and act against violent threats in Afghanistan will diminish after US troops leave.
A January UN report said there were as many as 500 al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan and the Taliban maintained strong links with the group. The Taliban denies al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Announcing his decision to withdraw troops, Biden said the US will track the threat, reorganise counter-terrorism capabilities, and retain considerable assets in the region to address threats to the US from Afghanistan.
“He has no desire to take off the ball,” Sullivan said of the president. “We will continue to suppress the terrorist threat in Afghanistan by repositioning our capabilities around the horizon.”
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