US Secretary of State Blinken: The terrorism threat has moved from Afghanistan
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has defended the country’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, saying the “terror” threat had moved elsewhere and that Washington needed to refocus resources on challenges such as China and the pandemic.
President Joe Biden announced last week that nearly 2,500 US troops would leave Afghanistan before this year’s 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks that triggered America’s longest war.
The unconditional withdrawal – four months later than a deadline agreed with the Taliban last year – comes despite a deadlock in peace talks between the armed group and the Afghan government.
“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,” Blinken told broadcaster ABC’s This Week programme.
“And that’s where we have to focus our energy and resources.”
Blinken met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani as well as senior US officials in Kabul last week and briefed them on Biden’s announcement that he was ending “the forever war,” which began in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Blinken told ABC the US had “achieved the objectives that we set out to achieve”.
“Al-Qaeda has been significantly degraded. Its capacity to conduct an attack against the United States now from Afghanistan is not there,” he said.
The Pentagon has about 2,500 troops in Afghanistan from a high of more than 100,000. Thousands more serve as part of a 9,600-strong NATO force, which will withdraw at the same time.
The delay in withdrawal – even by just over four months – has angered the Taliban, which has threatened to resume hostilities against US forces.
Blinken however said Washington would be able to see any move by the Taliban “in real-time” and take action.
“So if they start something up again, they’re going to be in a long war that’s not in their interest either,” he said.
Source: Al Jazeera