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World Antony Blinken makes surprise stop in Afghanistan to sell Biden troop withdrawal

16:20  15 april  2021
16:20  15 april  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

Why America Can't End Its 'Forever Wars'

  Why America Can't End Its 'Forever Wars' The U.S. military's new way of fighting, developed after two decades at war, traps us in conflicts that last forever.Though the new administration seems intent on ending America's oldest war and there is growing fatigue over endless wars in the Middle East, and though the Pentagon is scrambling to refocus resources and attention away from counterterrorism to big war pursuits against the likes of Russia and China, war isn't going to actually end. That's because there is something about the way the United States fights—about how it has learned to fight in Afghanistan and on other 21st-century battlefields—that facilitates endless war.

KABUL, Afghanistan — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Thursday to sell Afghan leaders and a wary public on President Joe Biden's decision to withdraw all American troops from the country and end America's longest war.

Blinken sought to assure senior Afghan politicians that the United States remains committed to the country despite Biden's announcement a day earlier that the 2,500 U.S. soldiers remaining in the country would be coming home by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that led to the U.S. invasion in 2001.

Biden to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11

  Biden to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 President Joe Biden will make the announcement on Wednesday, according to a senior administration official. There are roughly 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan now. American troop levels reached a high of 100,000 troops in August 2010 and stayed at that level for much of the next year.

Abdullah Abdullah wearing a suit and tie: Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, center, walks with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at the Sapidar Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, on April 15, 2021. Blinken made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Thursday to sell Afghan leaders and a wary public on President Joe Biden's decision to withdraw all American troops from the country and end America's longest-running war. © AP Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, center, walks with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at the Sapidar Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, on April 15, 2021. Blinken made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Thursday to sell Afghan leaders and a wary public on President Joe Biden's decision to withdraw all American troops from the country and end America's longest-running war.

Military reacts: 'The progress Afghanistan has made ... will all be for naught,' retired general fears

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"I wanted to demonstrate with my visit the ongoing to commitment of the United States to the Islamic Republic and the people of Afghanistan," Blinken told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani as they met at the presidential palace in Kabul. "The partnership is changing, but the partnership itself is enduring."

US coordinates Afghanistan pullout with NATO withdrawal

  US coordinates Afghanistan pullout with NATO withdrawal BRUSSELS (AP) — U.S. President Joe Biden’s top national security aides were consulting with NATO on Wednesday to coordinate the alliance’s withdrawal from Afghanistan with the planned pullout of American troops by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin were meeting senior officials from the alliance’s 30 members on Wednesday to discuss NATO’s future presence in Afghanistan in light of the announcement of the U.S. withdrawal that Biden was to make later in the day.Blinken said that he expected the allies to withdraw together but maintained that neither the U.S.

"We respect the decision and are adjusting our priorities," Ghani told Blinken, expressing gratitude for the sacrifices of US troops.

Later, in a meeting with Abdullah Abdullah, who heads the National Reconciliation Council, Blinken repeated his message, saying that "we have a new chapter, but it is a new chapter that we're writing together."

"We are grateful to your people, your country, your administration," Abdullah said.

NATO immediately followed Biden's lead on Wednesday, saying its roughly 7,000 non-American forces in Afghanistan would be departing within a few months, ending the foreign military presence that had been a fact of life for a generation of Afghans already reeling from more than 40 years of conflict.

Blinken arrived in the Afghan capital from Brussels, where he and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin briefed NATO officials on the U.S. decision and won quick approval from the allies to end their Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan: Why the US is there, why it's leaving, what will happen when it's gone

  Afghanistan: Why the US is there, why it's leaving, what will happen when it's gone President Joe Biden's promise to remove US troops from Afghanistan by September 11 is his effort -- each of the last four presidents has had one -- to end America's longest war.The deadline for Biden's withdrawal is significant -- September 11, 2021, is 20 years after the 9/11 terror attacks in New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania that led the US to target Afghanistan in the first place.

Biden, Blinken, Austin have all tried to put a brave face on the pullout, maintaining that the U.S.- and NATO-led missions to Afghanistan had achieved their goal of decimating Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network that launched the 9/11 attacks and clearing the country of terrorist elements that could use Afghan soil to plot similar strikes.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, on March 21, 2021. © Presidential Palace via AP Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, on March 21, 2021.

However, that argument has faced pushback from some U.S. lawmakers and human rights advocates, who say the withdrawal will result in the loss of freedoms that Afghans enjoyed after the Taliban was ousted from power in late 2001.

"My views are very pessimistic," Naheed Farid, a member of parliament, told reporters when asked her thoughts about the future of her country. Farid was one of a half-dozen, mostly women, civic leaders who met with Blinken at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. She did not elaborate.

Despite billions of U.S. dollars in aid, 20 years after the invasion, more than half of Afghanistan's 36 million people live on less than $1.90 a day, according to World Bank figures. Afghanistan is also considered one of the worst countries in the world for women's rights and wellbeing, according to the Georgetown Institute for Women Peace and Security.

'The progress Afghanistan has made ... will all be for naught,' retired general fears

  'The progress Afghanistan has made ... will all be for naught,' retired general fears President Biden has ordered the last 2,500 US troops home by Sept. 11, giving the Taliban as well as al-Qaeda room to grab power, ex-general says.The estimated 2,500 U.S. troops that President Biden has ordered home offered some slim assurance that the Afghan government could withstand the Taliban insurgency that has re-emerged across the country of 37 million.

For many Afghans the past two decades have been disappointing, as corruption has overtaken successive governments and powerful warlords have amassed wealth and loyal militias who are well armed. Many Afghans fear the chaos will worsen even more  once America leaves.

a gun on a rock: U.S. soldier on June 26, 2013, in Afghanistan. © Carmen Gentile U.S. soldier on June 26, 2013, in Afghanistan.

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 pullout to begin on May 1. The NATO withdrawal will commence the same day.

The Taliban's spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed warned Wednesday that "problems will be compounded," if the U.S. misses the May 1 withdrawal deadline. The insurgent movement has yet to respond to Biden's surprise announcement that the pullout would only start on that date.

"It is time to end America's longest war," Biden said in his announcement in Washington on Tuesday, but he added that the U.S. will "not conduct a hasty rush to the exit."

Biden, along with Blinken and Austin in Brussels, vowed that the U.S. would remain committed to Afghanistan's people and development.

"Bringing our troops home does not mean ending our relationship with Afghanistan or our support for the country," Blinken said. "Our support, our engagement and our determination remain."

Austin said that the U.S. military, after withdrawing from Afghanistan, will keep counterterrorism "capabilities" in the region to keep pressure on extremist groups operating within Afghanistan. Asked for details, he declined to elaborate on where those U.S. forces would be positioned or in what numbers.

Associated Press writer Kathy Gannon in Islamabad contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Antony Blinken makes surprise stop in Afghanistan to sell Biden troop withdrawal

Graham: 'I could not disagree more' with Trump support of Afghanistan troop withdrawal .
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday pushed back on former President Trump's support for removing all troops from Afghanistan, writing on Twitter that he "could not disagree more with former President Trump regarding his support for President Biden's withdrawal of all forces from Afghanistan against sound military advice."Earlier on Sunday, Trump released a statement criticizing Biden's goal for all troops to be pulled out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11, but saying that "Getting out of Afghanistan is a wonderful and positive thing to do.""I planned to withdraw on May 1st, and we should keep as close to that schedule as possible," Trump wrote.

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