U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks about refugee programs for Afghans who aided the U.S. during a briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC, U.S. August 2, 2021.
Brendan Smialowski | Reuters
As Taliban fighters began entering the Afghan capital of Kabul on Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw American troops from the country.
He said the U.S. succeeded in its mission of bringing those responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to justice and that remaining in the country was not sustainable. If the U.S. would have stayed, Blinken said, America would be back at war with the Taliban, which he said is at its strongest since 2001.
“Remaining in Afghanistan for another one, five, 10 years was not in the national interest,” Blinken said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
His comments come as the U.S. moves personnel from the U.S. embassy in Kabul to the city’s airport. Blinken said the government’s top objective is the safety of U.S. citizens in the country, which is why Biden authorized the deployment of approximately 5,000 U.S. troops to assist in the drawdown of U.S. personnel and other allied personnel.
Many have started comparing Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan to America’s flight from Saigon during the Vietnam War in 1975. Blinken pushed back against that comparison.
“This is manifestly not Saigon,” Blinken said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
Blinken said Biden had a “tough decision” to make after the Trump administration established a deadline of May 1 to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
“If the president had decided to stay, all gloves would have been off. We would have been back at war with the Taliban,” Blinken said, adding the U.S. would likely have had to send tens of thousands of additional troops to the country to fight.
The Taliban’s swift moves across the country follow Biden in July saying that such a takeover of the country was “highly unlikely.”
Biden told reporters last week at the White House that he did not regret his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan, effectively ending America’s longest war.
The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have cost U.S. taxpayers more than $1.57 trillion collectively since Sept. 11, 2001, according to a Defense Department report.