.
.
.
.
US foreign policy

Blinken says Biden had little room to act, defends Afghanistan withdrawal

“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?” Blinken told US senators in his opening remarks.

Published: Updated:

The top US diplomat Monday doubled down on the Biden administration’s defense on the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and said former President Donald Trump’s deal with the Taliban was the cause of a reduced US troop level in the wartorn country.

“When President Biden took office in January, he inherited an agreement that his predecessor had reached with the Taliban to remove all remaining US troops by May 1 of this year. As part of that agreement, the previous Administration pressed the Afghan government to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners – including some top war commanders. Meanwhile, it reduced our own force presence to 2,500 troops,” Antony Blinken told the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

The United States ended its diplomatic and military presence in Afghanistan last month, culminating in the swift, yet unexpected, takeover of the entire country by the Taliban.

In the closing days of the US withdrawal and evacuation process, a suicide bombing at Kabul airport killed hundreds of Afghans and another 13 US service members.

US officials and lawmakers from both sides of the political spectrum have criticized Biden and his top aides for failing to predict such a quick collapse of Afghanistan’s security and state institutions, including its army.

On Monday, Blinken said there was no evidence to suggest that extending the US presence in Afghanistan would have made the security forces or government “any more resilient or self-sustaining.”

The US poured billions of dollars into supporting and building the country’s security apparatuses over the last 20 years. US intelligence reports suggested the government would be able to stand alone for at least two months before the Taliban took over.

“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?” Blinken told US senators in his opening remarks.

Blinken also suggested that Washington’s “strategic competitors or adversaries” like China, Russia, Iran and North Korea would have liked the US to remained “bogged down” in Afghanistan for another decade.

Going forward, Blinken said the Taliban had “committed to prevent terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as a base for external operations that could threaten the United States or our allies, including Al Qaeda and ISIS-K.”

He added: “We will hold them accountable to that. That does not mean we will rely on them.”

As for US aid to Afghanistan, the top US diplomat said no money or assistance would go through the government, now run by the Taliban.

Instead, it would flow to the Afghan people via the United Nations, NGOs and humanitarian groups.

Read more: White House praises Taliban as ‘professional’ as US citizens allowed to leave Kabul