Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday defended the Biden administration’s decision to pull U.S. troops from Afghanistan, saying the situation is “not 2001” and that the terror threat has moved to “other places.”
In an in interview on ABC News’ “This Week,” Blinken, who made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan a day after President Joe Biden announced the remaining 2,500 U.S. soldiers there would come home by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said the administration has more urgent priorities.
“The president felt that as we're looking at the world now, we have to look at it through the prism of 2021, not 2001,” Blinken said. “The terrorism threat has moved to other places. And we have other very important items on our agenda, including the relationship with China, including dealing with everything from climate change to COVID. And that's where we have to focus our energy and resources.”
According to Blinken, the United States will still “have a means” to monitor if there’s a resurgence of a terrorism threat there.
“We’re going to be repositioning our forces and our assets to make sure that we guard against the potential reemergence,” he said. “The Taliban in the agreement reached by the Trump administration, with the Taliban, is also committed not to allow al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups that might target the United States to reemerge. We’re going to hold them to that commitment.”
“We are very much invested in trying to pursue the peace process for Afghanistan, to bring the parties together to see if they can come to some kind of political settlement,” he added.
“Ultimately, it is in no one's interest in Afghanistan, whether it's the Taliban or anyone else, it's certainly not the people of Afghanistan, for the country to descend once again into civil war, into a long war.”
Peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government are at a stalemate but are supposed to resume later this month in Istanbul.
Under an agreement signed between the Trump administration and the Taliban last year, the U.S. was to have completed its military withdrawal by May 1. Although Biden is blowing through that deadline, angering the Taliban leadership, his plan calls for the pull-out to begin on May 1. The NATO withdrawal will commence the same day.
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