The United States’ exit from Afghanistan was the correct decision given the inability of the Kabul government and the risk of having to send more troops to counteract the rise of the Taliban, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday.
In an appearance before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Blinken echoed the arguments laid out by President Joe Biden regarding the need to put an end to the longest military intervention in US history.
Saying there is no evidence that if the US had stayed in Afghanistan longer it would have made the Afghan government or military any stronger or more self-sufficient, Blinken asked lawmakers: “If 20 years and hundreds of billions of dollars in support, equipment, and training did not suffice, why would another year, or five, or ten, make a difference?”
He said, however, that some time ago the US achieved the two objectives that took it to Afghanistan in the first place: bringing to justice those responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and ensuring that attacks like that would not happen again.
Specifically, he cited the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind Al Qaeda, in a US military operation in Pakistan and the decline in the capabilities of the terrorist group to carry out attacks since that time.
At the hearing, Blinken was harshly criticized by Republican lawmakers, who lambasted the rapid withdrawal and the scenes of chaos and anguish at the Kabul airport, where thousands of people fought to try and get on one of the evacuation flights by the US and its allies to get selected people out of the country.
Blinken said that the administration had prepared for the “worst possible scenarios,” but he remarked that no intelligence report had forecast that Kabul would fall into the hands of the Taliban in just two weeks.
He also criticized the agreement reached by former President Donald Trump with the Taliban to withdraw US troops from the Central Asian country.
“We inherited a deadline. We did not inherit a plan,” Blinken said, noting that as soon as Biden took office he had to make a decision on whether to end the war in Afghanistan or to intensify it.
In that regard, Blinken said that prolonging the US presence in Afghanistan would have meant putting the lives of more Americans in danger.
On the other hand, Blinken reiterated that the terrorist threat against the US no longer has its epicenter in Afghanistan and now other enclaves in Yemen, Somalia and Libya are much more dangerous and thus it is necessary for the country to relocate its defense capabilities.
He also said that Washington is maintaining its “commitment” to the Afghan people and announced that $64 million in US aid will go directly to non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies to be spent to help the people of the Central Asian nation.
Blinken also said that the Taliban have “promised” to prevent the use of Afghanistan as a base for terrorist operations against the US or its allies by Al Qaeda and the offshoot of the Islamic State in the region.
He said that Washington was making the Taliban responsible for that but “That does not mean we will rely on them. We will remain vigilant in monitoring threats” and maintain a “robust” antiterrorist capability in the zone.
“One of the lessons is while we are very effective in dealing with terrorist threats to our country and eliminating them, which we did very successfully in Afghanistan, the idea of using military force to remake a society is something that is beyond our means and capacity,” Blinken went on to say.
Between Aug. 14 and Aug. 30, the US helped evacuate some 124,000 people from the Kabul airport, which Biden had called one of the biggest evacuation missions in history, and so far the US has taken in more than 45,000 Afghan refugees after carefully vetting them.
During that operation, a suicide bombing claimed by the IS at the airport on Aug. 26 killed 13 US soldiers and injured another 18, also causing many dozens of Afghan victims.
There’s a new protest song for the Afghanistan withdrawal by John Ondrasik and it names the offenders. Pass it on.
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