U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was consistently wrong about the outcome of the unconditional withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan, insisting that a Taliban takeover was “highly unlikely” Sunday, as the jihadis swept into Kabul after the collapse of the government.
Blinken was incorrect when he asserted that the unconditional U.S. withdrawal, a concession long sought by the Taliban, would not result in the fall of Afghanistan.
Secretary Blinken assured that the fall of Afghanistan after the departure of U.S.-led NATO troops was a far-fetched notion, even as the Taliban seized territory and U.S. intelligence warnings months before the withdrawal ultimately determined the rapid collapse of the Afghan government and military was probable.
Even the State Department’s own intelligence and research division described the failure of the Afghan forces to prevent the Taliban from conquering territory as a red flag, noting that the deteriorating security conditions could result in the collapse of the Kabul government, the New York Times learned from unnamed Biden administration officials.
Blinken defended Biden’s withdrawal plan to the bitter end. Contradicting his own department’s intelligence, Blinken provided an optimistic assessment even as the Taliban swept into Kabul on Sunday after the collapse of the Afghan government and declared victory.
“The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely,” Blinken told CNN Sunday.
A day after the Taliban entered Kabul, Drew Holden, a freelance commentary writer, noted that Blinken has consistently been wrong about what the complete U.S. military withdrawal would mean for Afghanistan and the American embassy personnel.
Holden wrote on Twitter thread:
One of the most consistently wrong people is Antony Blinken, Biden’s Secretary of State.
He said of the withdrawal: “as the United States begins withdrawing our troops, we will use our civilian and economic assistance to advance a just and durable peace for Afghanistan.”
In April, while visiting Afghanistan, Blinken told Afghan President Ashraf [Ghani] – who has since fled the country – that Blinken was there to “demonstrate literally, by our presence, that we have an enduring and ongoing commitment to Afghanistan.”
I’m…not sure that one came to pass.
But perhaps Blinken’s worst prediction was from June where he said the US withdrawal wouldn’t lead to “some kind of immediate deterioration in the situation” that could happen “from a Friday to a Monday.”
In April, while visiting Afghanistan, Blinken told Afghan President Ashraf Gandhi – who has since fled the country – that Blinken was there to “demonstrate literally, by our presence, that we have an enduring and ongoing commitment to Afghanistan.” pic.twitter.com/wdFSBRaxxG
— Drew Holden (@DrewHolden360) August 17, 2021
There were a lot of bad predictions about the Taliban.
In April, US Envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad told lawmakers that the new Taliban would behave better because “international recognition” would prove an incentive.
Doesn’t look like it. pic.twitter.com/bKDkojdukm
— Drew Holden (@DrewHolden360) August 17, 2021
CNN noted that President Biden declared last month, “The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”
Then the network asked Blinken, “how did President Biden get this so wrong?”
Blinken changed the subject, saying it was appropriate for the U.S. military to pull out because it had accomplished its mission.
“The objective that we set, bringing those who attacked us to justice, making sure that they couldn’t attack us again from Afghanistan – we’ve succeeded in that mission, and in fact, we succeeded a while ago,” he said.
The thousands of Americans and Afghan allies who remain stranded in Kabul, partly because the Taliban has blocked nearly all roads to the U.S.-controlled airport that provides the only way out, suggest the mission is not over.
Biden deployed 6,000 troops, an increase from the 2,500 there before the withdrawal, to help rescue the Afghan allies and the estimated 10,000 to 15,000 Americans stranded in Afghanistan.
Despite the reports of Taliban checkpoints, Blinken told NBC News Sunday:
We’ve been very clear with the Taliban that any effort on their part to interrupt our operations, to attack our forces, to attack our personnel, would be met with a very strong, decisive response. And that’s exactly why the President sent 5,000 forces in to assure that we can proceed in a safe and orderly manner. And so far, that’s what’s happened.
During the same interview, the secretary conceded that the Biden administration knew that the Taliban was strong enough for a takeover, claiming that it was already for any contingencies, citing the deployments of the 6,000 troops. However, conditions on the ground suggest the Biden administration was ill-prepared for the Taliban marching into Kabul
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. And we’ve said all along, including back then, that there was a real chance that the Taliban would make significant gains throughout Afghanistan.
He shifted blame for the rapid deterioration of Afghanistan away from the withdrawal plan, and to the inability of the Afghan security forces to secure their country despite the billions of dollars the U.S. spent on training and equipping them.
Like Biden, Blinken appears to stand by the administration’s withdrawal decision.