As the United States officially begins pulling out its troops from war-torn Afghanistan in what President Joe Biden has claimed ending “the forever war”, Secretary of State Antony Blinken says there will still be US presence in Afghanistan even after the American troop pullout is completed.
“We’ve been engaged in Afghanistan for 20 years, and we sometimes forget why we went there in the first place, and that was to deal with the people who attacked us on 9/11. And we did. Just because our troops are coming home doesn’t mean we’re leaving. We’re not,” Blinken said on Sunday.
He added that the US will continue what he claimed as “providing economic, humanitarian, and developmental support in Afghanistan.”
Blinken also said, “We have to be prepared for every scenario and there are a range of them,” if the Taliban could end up taking over in Afghanistan.
Washington, last week, said the US Army Ranger task force would be sent to Afghanistan amid the US troop withdrawal after it announced the start of the Afghan pullout.
The United States and the Taliban signed a peace deal in Doha, Qatar, on February 29, 2020, stipulating a gradual withdrawal of US troops as well as the beginning of intra-Afghan negotiations and prisoner exchanges.
President Biden has said the US will fully withdraw troops from Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, despite the 2020 Trump-Taliban peace deal having set May 1, 2021 as the deadline for troop pullout.
Biden’s failure to commit to Trump’s withdrawal date has angered the Taliban, with the militant group warning that they may “take action” against US forces before Biden’s September 11 pullout date.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted that, “As withdrawal of foreign forces from #Afghanistan by agreed upon May 1st deadline has passed, this violation in principle has opened the way for Mujahidin to take every counteraction it deems appropriate against the occupying forces,” he tweeted.
The Taliban accused the US of violating the Doha agreement over the failed deadline and threatened to abandon inter-Afghan peace talks until all US-led foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan.
The Taliban have not yet agreed to Biden’s troop withdrawal date and failed to show up at a “peace conference” in Turkey last month.
The US president has been widely criticized for his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham accused the US president of “paving the way” for another terror attack similar to 9/11, saying terrorists across the globe were “on steroids” after Biden made the announcement two weeks ago.
Graham said Biden is “setting Afghanistan on a path to deteriorate rather quickly and for the enemy to reconstitute. It can all be avoided with a minimal commitment compared to the past.”
“Every terrorist camp in the world is on steroids today because in their world they beat us. In their world, they drove us out,” he added.
Former secretaries of state Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice have also expressed concerns about Biden’s Afghan pullout.
Rice, who served under former president George Bush during 9/11, suggested the US will likely have to go back.
Both Rice and Clinton supported military intervention in the Middle East following the attacks on September 11, 2001.
In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Clinton warned that Biden would face “huge consequences” should he go through with his complete withdrawal.
She said the US needs to be prepared for “two huge consequences” — the collapse of the Afghan government as the result of a Taliban takeover, and a subsequent outpouring of refugees.
“It’s one thing to pull out troops that have been supporting security in Afghanistan, supporting the Afghan military, leaving it pretty much to fend for itself, but we can’t afford to walk away from the consequences of that decision,” Clinton claimed.
The Afghan Defense Ministry said Sunday, more than 100 Taliban militants were killed and dozens of others wounded in a series of clashes with Afghan government forces in just 24 hours.
The deadly clashes came shortly after US troops turned over Camp Antonik in Helmand province to Afghan forces.