Friday, December 3

“This is clearly not Saigon”: Blinken defends the US mission in Afghanistan | Biden Administration


The top US diplomat appeared on political television shows Sunday to defend the US mission in Afghanistan and try to contain a wave of comparisons between the chaotic scenes unfolding in Kabul, where the Taliban are now poised to retake power. , and the humiliating fall of Saigon. 46 years ago.

“This is obviously not Saigon,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told ABC’s This Week. “We went to Afghanistan 20 years ago with a mission in mind, and that was to deal with the people who attacked us on September 11, and that mission has been successful.”

Blinken’s rejection of any parallels to the iconic image of helicopters evacuating personnel from the U.S. embassy in Saigon in April 1975 at the end of the Vietnam War came as the skies over the Afghan capital were filled with Chinooks and Black Hawks transporting US embassy staff to an airport. safe location at the international airport. The Secretary of State made his comments with the Taliban forces that are accumulating within the capital and with their representatives already negotiating a “peaceful transfer” of power in the presidential palace.

With the Biden administration increasingly on the defensive in the face of the astonishingly rapid advance of the Taliban across the country, Blinken attempted to justify defeat by arguing that the US mission in Afghanistan had been accomplished and that retaining forces in the country was not. One option. “Al-Qaida has greatly diminished and its ability to attack us again from Afghanistan at this time does not exist,” he said.

To have maintained a military presence in Afghanistan beyond the May 1 deadline set by the previous Trump administration would have been inviting a resurgence of Taliban attacks on American personnel, Blinken said. “In that case, it would have to explain why we were sending tens of thousands of forces back to Afghanistan to continue a war that the country must end after 20 years.”

But the unseemly struggle to evacuate embassy personnel, coupled with the redeployment of 5,000 US troops to the country in a reversal of the withdrawal. effectively completed Just a few weeks ago, he left the White House facing accusations that he has marred America’s exit with potentially long-term consequences. Concern is also growing for the more than 18,000 Afghans and their families who worked for the United States as translators and in other capacities who are at risk of retaliation from the Taliban.

On Sunday morning, a briefing by senior officials in the Biden administration for Congressional leaders turned bitter. Kevin McCarthy, the leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, exploded with anger and called the withdrawal a “disgrace”, according to Political.

McCarthy said I have passion and I have anger, “and asked,” Are we safe at home for the next few weeks? ”. His outburst came during a nearly hour-long call with Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, also spoke, thanking Biden for his “clarity of purpose” but expressing concern for the future of women in Afghanistan, Politico reported.

The powerful analogy to Saigon, one of the most ignominious episodes in America’s long history of foreign intervention, is increasingly drawn against Biden personally. When asked in July whether there was any merit in the Vietnam comparison, President answered: “None at all. Zero … There will be no circumstance where you see people being lifted from the roof of a US embassy from Afghanistan.”

Opinion polls suggest that after nearly 20 years of war, with more than 2,000 US military deaths and $ 1 trillion spent in a failed effort to build a strong Afghan government and fighting force capable of resisting the Taliban, the American people have had enough. TO poll last week by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found that 70% of those polled supported the decision to withdraw US troops.

On Saturday Biden echoed sentiment in opinion polls, saying that “an endless American presence in the midst of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me.”

He added that he was the fourth president to preside over US troops in Afghanistan – two from any of the major political parties – and that “I would not and will not pass this war to a fifth.”

Despite retirement plan was forged by the previous Trump administration in negotiations with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, in February 2020, Republican leaders are holding back nothing in their criticism of the current White House.

Michael McCaul, the top foreign affairs Republican in the House of Representatives, described the events in Kabul as “an absolute disaster of epic proportions” and said that Biden “is going to have blood on his hands.”

Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union, McCaul said that Biden’s team “totally screwed this up. They completely underestimated the strength of the Taliban and did not listen to the intelligence community. “

Ridiculing Biden’s claim that the Afghan withdrawal is unmatched in Vietnam, McCaul said: “We think it will be worse than Saigon. When they raise the black flag of the Taliban over our US embassy, ​​think of that image. “


www.theguardian.com

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