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Secretary of State Antony Blinken has declared the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan a “success” amid the mounting death toll of Afghan civilians at the hands of the Taliban and the near-total rout of the Afghanistan military.
“This is not Saigon,” insisted Blinken at a Sunday interview as U.S. embassy staff continue to be evacuated from Kabul. Their evacuation has been supported by the addition of some 3,000 U.S. troops and thousands of other coalition troops who were dispatched to Afghanistan following the pullout as the Taliban made a swift advance across the country, taking city after city.
Speaking to ABC, Blinken said that having forces on the ground was necessary to “make sure we could [perform the evacuation] in a safe and orderly fashion.”
“The compound itself, folks are leaving there and going to the airport,” he said.
Comparisons were raised by journalists and observers to the United States’ evacuation of its embassy in Saigon in 1975 as the Vietnam War ended. Blinken rejected those comparisons, stating matter-of-factly that “This is not Saigon.”
“The fact of the matter is this: We went to Afghanistan 20 years ago with one mission in mind. That was to deal with the people that attacked us on 9/11. That mission has been successful,” he insisted.
His remarks come in the wake of the collapse of the Afghan government as its embattled leader Ashraf Ghani failed to strike a deal with the Taliban and fled Kabul for neighboring Tajikistan. As reported by Al Jazeera, Ghani left hours after the Taliban agreed to let its fighters wait on the outskirts of the nation’s capital.
“The former president of Afghanistan left Afghanistan, leaving the country in this difficult situation,” said Abdullah Abdullah, the header of the Afghan National Reconciliation Council. “God should hold him accountable.”
Ghani reportedly flew out of the country, officials told the Associated Press.
Ther departure of U.S. civilian employees has also prompted European nations to evacuate their nationals and local staff from the region. As the Taliban moved to enter Kabul, Germany and France moved their personnel to the airport ahead of a planned evacuation on Monday.
NATO member states, including Britain, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, and Spain, have also announced an evacuation of their personnel.
“We are not going to risk our people falling into the hands of the Taliban,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the Bild daily.
The European Union declared that the Taliban advance on the capital had “increased the urgency to provide protection” for its staff against possible attacks.
“The matter is extremely urgent, we take it very seriously and continue to work hard, together with EU Member States, on implementing rapid solutions for them and ensure their safety,” said an EU spokesperson. “We are in intense contact and work closely on this with the Member States to maximize the possibilities for our local staff and their dependents to relocate to a safe location.”
NATO forces are reportedly helping to secure Kabul airport to facilitate the departure of civilian staff from Afghanistan.
In July, President Joe Biden boasted that the Taliban takeover of the Central Asian country was not “inevitable.”
“No, it’s not,” said Biden at a press conference on July 8 in response to pointed questions from journalists who made dire forecasts about the potential (and now realized) outcome of the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Biden boasted that the then-U.S.-backed Afghan government had “300,000 well-equipped” soldiers, adding that they were “as well-equipped as any army in the world.”
“Against something like 75,000 Taliba. It is not inevitable,” he said. He then suggested that he believed the military could fend off the insurgents, noting that he trusted their capabilities.
“I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped, and more—more competent in terms of conducting war,” Biden said at the time. Biden also denied assessments from U.S. intelligence officials who insisted that the government would collapse.
“That is not true,” he said in response to questions. “They did not—they didn’t—did not reach that conclusion.”
This was just 38 days ago. pic.twitter.com/ercqHppjU1
— House Republicans (@HouseGOP) August 15, 2021