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Austin says ‘nobody predicted’ Afghan government ‘would fall in 11 days’

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in an interview on Sunday that “nobody predicted” the Afghan government “would fall in 11 days.”

“It was very difficult to predict with accuracy. This all occurred in a span of about 11 days. Nobody predicted that, you know, the government would fall in 11 days,” Austin told host Martha Raddatz on ABC’s “This Week” one week after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, unleashing chaos in the region.

Austin said assessments he reviewed prior to the insurgent group’s takeover estimated it could be several months or one to two years before the Afghan government fell. 

He told Raddatz that U.S. officials saw Afghan military forces surrendering and “just kind of evaporating” as the Taliban began to make gains.

When pressed on whether the U.S.’s planning for the withdrawal was “acceptable and appropriate,” Austin responded, “I do based upon, you know, what we were looking at and the inputs to the plan” before criticizing the previous administration for providing a situation in which “there were no good options.”

“But I think you have to go back and look at what the administration inherited. I mean, we came in. We were faced with a May 1 deadline to have all forces out of the country. This deal had been struck with the Taliban. And so he [President Biden] had to very rapidly go through a detailed assessment and look at all options in terms of what, you know, what he could do. And none of those options were good options,” Austin said.

“He went through a very rigorous process, very detailed process. He listened to the input that was provided by all of the stakeholders in the interagency process. And so, at the end of the day, the president made his decision. But again he was faced with a situation where there were no good options. All were very tough,” he added.

Austin’s remarks come after a week of turmoil in Afghanistan, as the U.S. military worked to evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies from the region amid the Taliban’s ramped-up offensive.

The Pentagon announced on Saturday that roughly 17,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan in the past week, and around 22,000 have been pulled from the region since the end of July. Approximately 2,500 Americans have been evacuated from the country.

Reports, however, are now saying that Americans and Afghan citizens are facing instances of violence and harassment as they make their way toward the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

For this reason, the U.S. Embassy in the capital city sent a security alert on Saturday telling Americans not to travel to the airport or approach airport gates “unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so,” citing “potential security threats” outside the airport.

The Biden administration has been criticized for its handling of the situation in Afghanistan, with many questioning if the president should have proceeded with his decision to pull U.S. troops from the region, which came ahead of the Taliban’s ramped-up offensive.

Several officials are now calling on the administration to do more to pull Americans and Afghan allies from the region.

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