Blinken argues Taliban would have launched offensive even if US had stayed
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday defended the Biden administration’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan even as a Taliban takeover appears imminent, arguing that the current offensive would have occurred even if the U.S. had stayed.
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Blinken acknowledged that Afghan security forces have been unable to defend the nation and that the Taliban offensive has progressed more quickly than expected.
Host Jake Tapper pressed Blinken on whether the U.S. withdrawal was rushed and not well planned, pointing to the quickly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.
“We were in Afghanistan for one overriding purpose: to deal with the folks who attacked us on 9/11. That’s why we went there 20 years ago. And over those 20 years, we brought [Osama] bin Laden to justice. We vastly diminished the threat posed by al Qaeda in Afghanistan to the United States to the point where it’s not capable of conducting such an attack again from Afghanistan,” Blinken said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken defends the Biden administration’s decision to pull US forces out of Afghanistan: “The idea that the status quo could have been maintained by keeping our forces there, I think, is simply wrong.” #CNNSOTU https://t.co/5uk1k2vMbY pic.twitter.com/qlX6LU7BTB
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) August 15, 2021
He reiterated remarks made by President Biden that keeping U.S. forces on the ground in Afghanistan would not have changed the current outcome, adding that he believes America’s strategic competitors “would like nothing better” than for its forces to remain in the Middle East for several more years.
Blinken also said that the U.S. has told the Taliban that there will be “a swift and decisive response” if the insurgent group interferes in the evacuation of Americans in Afghanistan. He also said the U.S. is “doubling down on efforts” to evacuate Afghan interpreters and translators who are at risk of danger from the Taliban due to aiding U.S. forces.
When asked if the U.S. would ever recognize the Taliban as a legitimate government, Blinken said, “A future Afghan government that upholds the basic rights of its people and that doesn’t harbor terrorists is a government we can work with and recognize.”
“Conversely, a government that doesn’t do that, that doesn’t uphold the basic rights of its people, including women and girls, that harbors terrorist groups that have designs on the United States, our allies and partners, certainly, that’s not going to happen,” he added.
On Sunday, it was reported that the Taliban were discussing a peaceful transfer of power with Afghanistan’s government after the insurgent group entered the country’s capital city of Kabul.
Biden has sent around 5,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan to aid in the evacuation of U.S. workers in Afghanistan. He has remained firm in his decision earlier this year to withdraw forces.