US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Thursday to sell Afghan leaders on President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw all American troops from the country and end America’s longest war, the AP reports.
Blinken sought to assure senior Afghan politicians that the US remains committed to the country despite Biden’s announcement a day earlier that the 2,500 US soldiers remaining in the country would be leaving by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that led to the US invasion in 2001.
“I wanted to demonstrate with my visit the ongoing 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.”
“We respect the decision and are adjusting our priorities,” Ghani told Blinken, expressing gratitude for the sacrifices of US troops.
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.
Earlier, Germany, which contributes 1,300 troops to the training and stabilisation mission, indicated that it would support withdrawal
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the country’s defence minister, told ARD public television: “We always said, ‘We’ll go in together, we’ll leave together.’
About 36 countries provide troops for Nato’s Resolute Support mission, which largely provides training advice and assistance to Afghanistan’s security forces. Larger contributors include Italy, Georgia, Romania and Turkey, which supply several hundred troops each.
Non-US forces are from mainly Nato countries, but also from Australia, New Zealand, and Georgia. They outnumber the US troops in Afghanistan, but still rely on American air support, planning and leadership for their training mission.
Blinken arrived in the Afghan capital from Brussels, where he and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin briefed Nato officials on the US decision and won quick approval from the allies to end their Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.
Biden, Blinken, and Austin have all tried to put a brave face on the pullout, maintaining that the allied missions to Afghanistan had achieved their goal of decimating Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network that launched the 9/11 attacks and clearing the country of terrorist elements that could plot similar strikes.
However, that argument has faced pushback from some US 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.