The Secretary of State said the images emerging from Afghanistan, including personnel being airlifted out of the embassy in Kabul, is ‘standard operating procedure’.
‘This is being done in a very deliberate way. It’s being done in an orderly way. And it’s being done with American forces there to make sure we can do it in a safe way,’ he said in an interview with ABC News’ This Week on Sunday morning.
Host Johnathan Karl pushed back by saying: ‘Respectfully, not much about what we’re seeing seems too orderly or standard operating procedure.’
‘Just last month, President Biden said that under no circumstance, and those were his words, under no circumstance would the U.S. personnel, embassy personnel be airlifted out of Kabul in a replay of the scenes that we saw in Saigon in 1975,’ he said.
‘So, isn’t that exactly what we’re seeing now? I mean, even the images are evocative of what happened in Vietnam.’
‘Let’s take a step back,’ Blinken said, assuring: ‘This is manifestly not Saigon.’
Secretary of State Antony Blinken rejected on Sunday any comparisons between the swift evacuation of Americans from Afghanistan to the fall of Saigon, which led to the end of the Vietnam War in 1975
ABC’s Johnathan Karl (left) said the evacuation doesn’t appear orderly. ‘Let’s take a step back. This is manifestly not Saigon,’ Blinken insisted
A twin-rotor U.S. Air Force Chinook was seen taking off from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul on Sunday as the evacuation efforts from Afghanistan rapidly pick up pace
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan has been the intelligence hub of the US’s war on terror
Saigon, which was the capital of South Vietnam, was captured by the People’s Army of Vietnam and the Viet Cong in 1975, ending the Vietnam War along with a swift evacuation of all American forces and civilians. The withdrawal was the largest helicopter evacuation in history.
The State Department head listed a series of wins for the U.S. in Afghanistan, including ‘dealing with the people who attacked on 9/11’ and bringing ‘Bin Laden to justice’ as proof the situation is different from Saigon.
‘That mission has been successful,’ he said. ‘Al-Qaeda, the group that attacked us, has been vastly diminished. Its capacity to attack us again from Afghanistan has been – right now, does not exist.’
In a separate interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, however, Blinken said that it is the Afghan forces fault that the country has so easily been taken over by the Taliban upon U.S. troops’ withdrawal.
Host Chuck Todd played comments from Blinken in June where he said: ‘I don’t think it’s going to be something that happens from a Friday to a Monday. So I wouldn’t necessarily equate the departure of our forces in July, August, or by early September with some kind of immediate deterioration in the situation.’
‘How did that assessment end up so wrong?’ Todd asked. ‘That has not aged well.’
‘We’ve known all along that the Taliban was at its strongest position in terms of its strength since 2001. When we came to office, that was the fact,’ he said, in deflecting blame to former President Trump’s administration.
Trump’s former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Biden is to blame for the Taliban take over as the current administration tries to blame its predecessor and Afghanistan government
Blinken told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday that ‘the inability of Afghan security forces to defend their country has played a very powerful role in what we’ve seen over the last few weeks’, in further deflecting blame for the Taliban take over
Afghan Security forces travel along a road on Sunday in the Panjshir province of Afghanistan, as Taliban forces closed in on the capital city of Kabul
Taliban Islamic militant fighters drive an Afghan National Army vehicle through the streets of Laghman province on Sunday
‘And we said all along, including back then, that there was a real chance the Taliban would make significant gains throughout Afghanistan,’ he added.
‘But on the other hand, I have to tell you that the inability of Afghan security forces to defend their country has played a very powerful role in what we’ve seen over the last few weeks,’ Blinken continued in playing the blame game.
‘The fact is, we invested – the international community invested over 20 years, billions of dollars in these forces, 300,000 of them – with an Air Force, something the Taliban didn’t have, with the most modern, sophisticated equipment. And unfortunately, tragically, they have not been able to defend the country. And I think that explains why this has moved as quickly as it’s moved.’
On Sunday, the Taliban Islamic militant forces reached Kabul. They initially said they would wait for the ‘peaceful transfer of power,’ but soon after entered the capital city.
Republican Rep. Liz Cheney said both Biden and Trump are to blame for the unrest in Afghanistan following the withdrawal
But Republicans aren’t letting Biden and his administration blame Trump – or other people and entities – for the Taliban swiftly seizing the majority of Afghanistan in less than a week after the troop withdrawal.
Trump’s former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday ‘the Biden administration has failed in the execution on its own plan.’
‘Every President confronts challenges,’ he told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace.
‘This President confronted a challenge in Afghanistan – he has utterly failed to protect the American people from this challenge.’
Fiercely anti-Trump Republican Representative Liz Cheney also said Biden is responsible for the Afghanistan situation.
‘Look, I think absolutely President Biden bears responsibility for making this decision,’ Cheney told ABC This Week on Sunday morning.
She did, however, also lay blame on Trump and Pompeo.
‘There is no question that President Trump, his administration, Secretary Pompeo, they also bear very significant responsibility for this,’ she said. ‘They walked down this path of legitimizing the Taliban, of perpetuating this fantasy, telling the American people that the Taliban were a partner for peace.’
‘President Trump told us that the Taliban was going to fight terror. Secretary Pompeo told us that the Taliban was going to renounce al Qaeda. None of that has happened,’ she said.
Cheney, who lost her GOP conference leadership position earlier this year for repeatedly breaking with Trump, said the outcomes now are the ‘devastating’ results of ‘the delegitimization of the Afghan government.’
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also went after Biden for the devolving situation in Afghanistan, blaming the president for the ‘complete mismanagement’ of the Afghanistan withdrawal.
‘The White House has no discernible plan other than pleading with the Taliban. The bungled withdrawal, reminiscent of his failed withdrawal from Iraq, is an embarrassment to our nation,’ McCarthy said.
He added: ‘President Biden must continue to provide the close air support necessary for the Afghan government to protect themselves from the Taliban and make sure al Qaeda and ISIS do not gain a foothold due to the Biden administration’s disastrous policies.’
Blinken reiterated Sunday that Biden ‘made the determination that it was time to end this war for the United States.’
He also continued to laud the situation as a success for America.
‘We’ve been in Afghanistan for 20 years, a trillion dollars, 2,300 American lives lost. And, again, thankfully, having succeeded in doing what we set out to do in the first place,’ he said.
Biden wrote a statement from Camp David on Saturday afternoon where he blamed Donald Trump for ‘leaving the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001’
President Biden said on Saturday that Trump ‘left the Taliban in the strongest military position since 2001′ in putting the onus on his predecessor for the militants’ swift takeover of most of Afghanistan upon the U.S. troop withdrawal.
‘When I came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor—which he invited the Taliban to discuss at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 of 2019—that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on US forces,’ Biden wrote in a statement Saturday.
‘Shortly before he left office, he also drew US forces down to a bare minimum of 2,500,’ the president continued in blaming former President Trump for the unfolding disaster in Afghanistan. ‘Therefore, when I became President, I faced a choice—follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies’ forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict.’
Taliban fighters reached Kabul on Sunday and said they were awaiting a ‘peaceful transfer of power’, but soon after breached the border into the capital city
Secretary of State Antony Blinken also blamed Trump during a CNN interview on Sunday where he said: ‘Like it or not, there was an agreement that the forces would come out on May 1’
As the Taliban continues to overtake the majority of the country, forces reached the Capital City of Kabul on Sunday with officials seeking the unconditional surrender of the central government.
‘Our leadership had instructed our forces to remain at the gates of Kabul, not to enter the city,’ Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen told BBC in an interview.
‘We are awaiting a peaceful transfer of power,’ he said, adding the group expects that to happen in a matter of days.
Shortly after, however, the group moved inside the city’s perimeter.
Blinken said that Trump forced the administration’s hand to impose a total withdrawal by the end of April.
‘Like it or not, there was an agreement that the forces would come out on May 1,’ Blinken told CNN on Sunday morning.
‘Had we not begun that process, which is what the president did and the Taliban saw, then we would have been back at war with the Taliban, and we would have been back at war with tens of thousands of troops having to go in because the 2,500 troops we had there and the air power would not have sufficed,’ he said.
Blinken added in his interview on State of the Union that ‘it’s simply not in the national interest’ to remain in Afghanistan, claiming other U.S. adversaries would like ‘nothing more’ than to see another decade of American forces diverted there.
‘Come May 2nd, if the president had decided to stay, all gloves would have been off. We would have been back at war,’ Blinken said in a second interview Sunday morning with NBC’s Meet the Press.
He also said Sunday: ‘We had to put in place an entire system to deal with this. Unfortunately none of that work was done when we came in.’
The militant Islamic group was able to seize nearly all of Afghanistan in a little over a week – a stunning feat after the billions spent by the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) over two decades the build up Afghanistan’s security forces.
An American military assessment estimated it would be a month before Kabul would come under insurgent pressure.
Biden vowed he would not pass on the war in the Middle East to whoever is president after him.
‘I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan — two Republicans, two Democrats,’ he continued. ‘I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth.’
Trump immediately fired back at Biden in his own email statement on Saturday claiming that due to the current administration’s actions, the Taliban don’t fear America’s power anymore.
Trump hit back by saying the Afghanistan situation is a ‘complete failure through weakness, incompetence and total strategic incoherence’ by Biden
‘Joe Biden gets it wrong every time on foreign policy, and many other issues,’ he wrote.
‘Everyone knew he couldn’t handle the pressure.’
‘He ran out of Afghanistan instead of following the plan our Administration left for him—a plan that protected our people and our property, and ensured the Taliban would never dream of taking our Embassy or providing a base for new attacks against America,’ the former president continued.
‘The withdrawal would be guided by facts on the ground,’ Trump said of the deal he made in 2019 with leaders of the Taliban.
‘After I took out ISIS, I established a credible deterrent,’ Trump added. ‘That deterrent is now gone.’
‘The Taliban no longer has fear or respect for America, or America’s power,’ he said. ‘What a disgrace it will be when the Taliban raises their flag over America’s Embassy in Kabul.’
‘This is complete failure through weakness, incompetence, and total strategic incoherence.’
In Biden’s Saturday statement, he provided a list of five things his administration is doing to address the situation in Afghanistan. This includes deploying 5,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan to assist in the total withdrawal of all allies and U.S. personnel.
‘[B]ased on the recommendations of our diplomatic, military, and intelligence teams,’ he said, ‘I have authorized the deployment of approximately 5,000 US troops to make sure we can have an orderly and safe drawdown of US personnel and other allied personnel and an orderly and safe evacuation of Afghans who helped our troops during our mission and those at special risk from the Taliban advance.’
Around 1,000 service members are already on the ground and 3,000 more were already being sent next week, before officials announced the deployment of an extra 1,000 as the situation escalated over the weekend.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan will be evacuated in 72 hours under the protection of the military, and some staffers have already arrived at the Kabul international airport.
The Taliban have moved to within seven miles of Kabul, and taken over swathes of territory across the rest of Afghanistan. The warlords now control 19 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces
Biden also announced Saturday he is sending in 5,000 troops to help with the evacuation of U.S. and ally personnel
Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Saturday to discuss the ‘urgency of ongoing diplomatic and political efforts to reduce the violence,’ the State Department said in a statement.
‘The Secretary emphasized the United States’ commitment to a strong diplomatic and security relationship with the Government of Afghanistan and our continuing support for the people of Afghanistan.’
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has slammed Biden for the ‘complete mismanagement’ of the Afghanistan withdrawal.
Pentagon officials warned it could be just a matter of a couple days before the Taliban seizes control of Kabul, a city with more than four million people.
McCarthy said: ‘The White House has no discernible plan other than pleading with the Taliban. The bungled withdrawal, reminiscent of his failed withdrawal from Iraq, is an embarrassment to our nation.’
‘President Biden must continue to provide the close air support necessary for the Afghan government to protect themselves from the Taliban and make sure al Qaeda and ISIS do not gain a foothold due to the Biden administration’s disastrous policies.’
But Biden hit back in a statement from Camp David on Saturday afternoon, insisting that he could not force the Afghan army to fight.
He said: ‘One more year, or five more years, of US military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country. And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me.’
Biden and first lady Jill Biden departed for Camp David on Friday and plans to stay there through Wednesday.
BIDEN STATEMENT ON TALIBAN TAKEOVER: ‘I WILL NOT PASS THIS WAR ON TO A FIFTH PRESIDENT’
Over the past several days I have been in close contact with my national security team to give them direction on how to protect our interests and values as we end our military mission in Afghanistan.
First, based on the recommendations of our diplomatic, military, and intelligence teams, I have authorized the deployment of approximately 5,000 US troops to make sure we can have an orderly and safe drawdown of US personnel and other allied personnel and an orderly and safe evacuation of Afghans who helped our troops during our mission and those at special risk from the Taliban advance.
Second, I have ordered our armed forces and our intelligence community to ensure that we will maintain the capability and the vigilance to address future terrorist threats from Afghanistan.
Third, I have directed the Secretary of State to support President Ghani and other Afghan leaders as they seek to prevent further bloodshed and pursue a political settlement. Secretary Blinken will also engage with key regional stakeholders.
Fourth, we have conveyed to the Taliban representatives in Doha, via our Combatant Commander, that any action on their part on the ground in Afghanistan, that puts US personnel or our mission at risk there, will be met with a swift and strong US military response.
Fifth, I have placed Ambassador Tracey Jacobson in charge of a whole of government effort to process, transport, and relocate Afghan special immigrant visa applicants and other Afghan allies. Our hearts go out to the brave Afghan men and women who are now at risk. We are working to evacuate thousands of those who helped our cause and their families.
That is what we are going to do. Now let me be clear about how we got here.
America went to Afghanistan 20 years ago to defeat the forces that attacked this country on September 11th. That mission resulted in the death of Osama Bin Laden over a decade ago and the degradation of al Qaeda. And yet, 10 years later, when I became President, a small number of US troops still remained on the ground, in harm’s way, with a looming deadline to withdraw them or go back to open combat.
Over our country’s 20 years at war in Afghanistan, America has sent its finest young men and women, invested nearly $1 trillion dollars, trained over 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police, equipped them with state-of-the-art military equipment, and maintained their air force as part of the longest war in US history. One more year, or five more years, of US military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country. And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me.
When I came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor—which he invited the Taliban to discuss at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 of 2019—that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on US forces. Shortly before he left office, he also drew US forces down to a bare minimum of 2,500. Therefore, when I became President, I faced a choice—follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies’ forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict. I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan—two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth.