Children in Afghanistan – Photo credit: cdn.pixabay.com

Reactions to the U.S. decision to withdraw troop from Afghanistan are mixed. A few are of disappointment.

Media reports said:

‘Not what we’d hoped for’: UK military chief disappointed

Britain’s military chief has expressed disappointment at president Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

General Sir Nick Carter, the Chief of the Defense Staff, said it was “not a decision we hoped for” but added that the UK respected the stance taken by the new administration.

His comments come after Biden announced this week that the remaining troops would leave Afghanistan by September 11.

Britain is to begin pulling out its remaining 750 military trainers from next month.

Gen Carter acknowledged the final withdrawal of international forces after two decades could lead to a return of the warlords but said the situation may not be “quite as bad” as some were predicting.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “It is not a decision that we hoped for but we obviously respect it. It is clearly an acknowledgement of an evolving US strategic posture.”

He said he felt a “great deal of pride” at what the British armed forces had achieved during their time in the country.

“We went into Afghanistan back in 2001 to prevent international terrorism ever emerging from Afghanistan,” he said.

Gen Carter said Afghanistan had “evolved hugely” over the past 20 years, while the Taliban had also changed during that time.

Britain wanted Joe Biden to ‘keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan’

The UK wanted U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan, the head of the Armed Forces has revealed.

Gen Carter said President Biden’s decision to pull out all U.S. troops by September 11 was “not the decision” the UK wanted.

The Chief of Defense Staff said: “It’s not a decision that we’d hoped for. But we obviously respect it, and it’s clearly an acknowledgement of an evolving U.S. Strategic posture.”

However, many have cautioned that the UK, which has agreed to an “orderly departure of our forces” by withdrawing the remaining British troops by the deadline, said they had no choice but to cooperate because staying without the U.S. was impossible.

Losing the peace

Former UK defense minister Tobias Ellwood, Chairman of the Defense Select Committee, said the U.S. decision risked “losing the peace” and allowing extremism to “regroup.” It was “concerning” and “not the right move.”

He said British forces had “no choice” but to leave due to the U.S.’s “significant force protection capabilities from which we benefited”.

Ellwood added: “Remaining allied forces are unable to fill that vacuum without upgrading our posture for which there is no political appetite.”

America has lost

The Taliban’s “shadow mayor” in the Balkh district, Haji Hekmat, told the broadcaster (BBC):“We have won the war and America has lost.”

Washington’s efforts jeopardized

Some individuals involved in peace talks with the Taliban said Biden’s decision has jeopardized Washington’s efforts and increased the chances of an upsurge in violence.

Ashley Jackson, from the Overseas Development Institute, said: “Biden’s announcement decreases any leverage the international community has left over them, and helps the Taliban justify refusing to attend.”

But Gen Carter believes the Taliban “is not the organization it once was”.

“It is an organization that has evolved in the 20 years that we have been there and I think they recognize that they need some political legitimacy,” he said.

“I would not be surprised if a scenario plays out that actually sees it not being quite as bad as perhaps some of the naysayers at the moment are predicting.

“The Afghan armed forces are indeed much better trained than one might imagine. I think they could easily hold together and all of this could work out. We will just have to see.

Can endure, says Ashraf Ghani

Ashraf Ghani, the President of Afghanistan, has claimed his government can endure the Taliban without the help of U.S. troops, despite being heavily reliant on U.S. support.

Earlier this year the U.S. Treasury said the Taliban’s notorious Haqqani network faction discussed forming a joint unit with al-Qaeda as the terrorist group gains strength in Afghanistan.

It added that the terrorist organization continues to operate with the Taliban and is protected by the Afghan insurgent movement battling Ghani’s government, despite the Taliban agreeing to turn their backs on terrorism in return for an American troops withdrawal.

Situation will be dire

Robert Clark, who served in Afghanistan, and is a defense fellow at the Henry Jackson Society said: “NATO forces still continue a much needed role not only in providing security, but by enabling and developing the Afghan National Army.”

Clark added that once the U.S. and British leave “in only five short months, the situation on the ground will unfortunately be dire, facing the beleaguered Afghan government, and the Afghan Security Forces.”

He added: “At present, NATO forces provide three battle winning capabilities – Intelligence, medical evacuation, and close air support. Without these, an emboldened Taliban and resurgent al-Qaeda and Islamic State will seize on this power vacuum in Kabul.”

Clark said: “once again, it will be the Afghan citizens themselves who suffer”.

“The Taliban has already recently reaffirmed their insistence on strict sharia law, and their brutal system of local governance which the central government in Kabul will be powerless to stop in the wake of this premature NATO withdrawal.”

20 years in Afghanistan: Was it worth it?

Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent wrote on April 17, 2021:

The cost of this 20-year military and security engagement has been astronomically high – in lives, in livelihoods and in money. Over 2,300 US servicemen and women have been killed and more than 20,000 injured, along with more than 450 Britons and hundreds more from other nationalities.

But it is the Afghans themselves who have borne the brunt of the casualties, with over 60,000 members of the security forces killed and nearly twice that many civilians.

The estimated financial cost to the US taxpayer is close to a staggering US$1 trillion.

So the awkward question that has to be asked is: was it all worth it?

The answer depends on what you measure it by.

Let us just step back for a moment and consider why Western forces went in the first place and what they set out to do. For five years, from 1996-2001, a designated transnational terrorist group, Al-Qaeda, was able to establish itself in Afghanistan, led by its charismatic leader Osama Bin Laden. It set up terrorist training camps, including experimenting with poison gas on dogs, and recruited and trained an estimated 20,000 jihadist volunteers from around the world. It also directed the twin attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, killing 224 people, mostly African civilians.

Al-Qaeda was able to operate with impunity in Afghanistan because it was protected by the government at the time: the Taliban.

According to the research group Action on Armed Violence, 2020 saw more Afghans killed by explosive devices than in any other country in the world. Al-Qaeda, Islamic State (IS) and other militant groups have not disappeared, they are resurgent and doubtless encouraged by the imminent departure of the last remaining Western forces.

Back in 2003, on an ’embed’ at a remote firebase in Paktia province with the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division, I remember a veteran BBC colleague, Phil Goodwin, casting his doubts on what the legacy of the Coalition’s military presence would be. “Within 20 years,” he said, “the Taliban will be back in control of most of the South.” Today, following peace talks in Doha and military advances on the ground, they are poised to play a decisive part in the future of the whole country.

Dr Sajjan Gohel from the Asia Pacific Foundation takes a rather more pessimistic view. “There is a real concern,’ he says, “Afghanistan could revert back into the breeding ground for extremism that it was in the 1990s.” It is a concern shared by numerous Western intelligence agencies.

Dr Gohel predicts, “There will now be a new wave of Foreign Terrorist Fighters from the West travelling to Afghanistan for terrorist training. But the West will be unable to deal with it because the abandonment of Afghanistan will have already been completed.”

This may not be inevitable. It will depend on two factors: firstly, whether a triumphant Taliban permits the activities of Al-Qaeda and IS in areas under its control, and secondly, the degree to which the international community is prepared to tackle them when it no longer has the resources in the country.

So the future security picture for Afghanistan is opaque.

But few could have predicted, in the heady days following 9/11, that they would stay as long as two decades.

When I look back now on the various reporting trips I made to Afghanistan, embedding with U.S., British and Emirati troops, one memory stands out above all the rest. It was at that U.S. Army firebase just 3 miles (6km) from the border with Pakistan, and we were squatting on ammunition boxes in a mudwalled fort beneath a sky filled with stars. Everyone had just feasted on Texan ribeye steaks flown in from Ramstein in Germany – yes, this really happened – and the volley of Taliban rockets that later struck the base had yet to arrive.

A 19-year-old soldier from upstate New York told us how he had lost several of his buddies during his time there. “If it’s my time, it’s my time,” he shrugged. Then someone got out a guitar and gave a word-perfect rendition of the Radiohead song, Creep. It ended with the words, “What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here.” And I remember thinking at the time: no, we probably don’t.

‘High probability’ Biden’s decision will cause its government to fall, expert says

Former White House adviser Richard Clarke said that there is a “high probability” that President Biden’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan will result in the collapse of the Afghan government and a takeover of that country by the Taliban.

“It’s a very courageous move and it’s not going to be politically great for him,” Clarke said in an interview on the Yahoo News “Skullduggery” podcast. “There’s a high probability that government will fall and we’ll have perhaps the scene that we had when the government in Saigon fell and there was that famous iconic image of the helicopter on the top of the roof of the U.S. Embassy taking off with the last people in it. That could happen.”

Clarke’s comments are particularly noteworthy since he served as the top White House counterterrorism official under President Bill Clinton when the Taliban government in Kabul first began providing safe haven for al-Qaida. He then briefly served in the same position under President George W. Bush, when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Clarke had initially urged U.S. military intervention in that country to expel al-Qaida during Clinton’s presidency and then later backed the U.S. invasion ordered by Bush.

But he believes that the U.S. mission in that country changed into something very different than he had envisioned.

“What I had in mind,” Clarke said, is “you go in there, you clean out the camps because al-Qaida had military bases. You find the camps, you find the units, you destroy them. You can try to find and kill as many of the leaders as possible. You destroy their infrastructure. Then leave, or withdraw to the area controlled by the Northern Alliance” — the northern-based tribal forces that were fighting al-Qaida at the time. “But the notion of staying there and running the cities and running the roads, connecting the cities, and trying to create and prop up a government, that was an overreach.”

Clarke gave Biden credit for biting the bullet and doing something his predecessors did not. “He did it because he thought it was the right thing. He did it because somebody eventually had to do it,” Clarke said. “And he said, Hey, look, past presidents have passed on this. And there was an implied criticism, I think, of his old boss, Obama, and certainly a little bit of Trump, that no one had the courage to say the emperor has no clothes, that there’s no way we can make this work.”

But Clarke added that the consequences of withdrawal could be “potentially awful.” He added: “there could be images on our TV screens, whether it’s a year from now or two years from now, of a lot of Afghan people who put their faith and trust in the United States getting killed or getting imprisoned, or particularly for women, getting thrown back into the 14th century. All the gains that the society achieved could be lost. And that will be terrible.

“But the question that Biden had to face is what is the cost of continuing to prop up that Kabul regime with U.S. military forces?” And, Clarke said, “at the end of the day, I think you have to ask yourself, is this something that you could ever do that anybody could ever do?

“Americans tend to believe that all problems can be solved. And I think when you’re dealing with places like Afghanistan, you’ve got to have a different mindset. That Afghanistan is essentially ungovernable.”

Biden rejected generals’ views

A New York Times report said:

Over two decades of war, the Pentagon had fended off the political instincts of elected leaders frustrated with the grind of Afghanistan. But President Biden refused to be persuaded.

Biden used his daily national security briefing on the morning of April 6 to deliver the news that his senior military leaders suspected was coming. He wanted all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11.

In the Oval Office, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wanted to make certain. “I take what you said as a decision, sir,” General Milley said, according to officials with knowledge of the meeting. “Is that correct, Mr. President?”

The Pentagon had always managed to fend off the political instincts of elected leaders frustrated with the grind of Afghanistan, as commanders repeatedly requested more time and more troops. Even as the number of American forces in Afghanistan steadily decreased to the 2,500 who still remained, Defense Department leaders still cobbled together a military effort that managed to protect the U.S. from terrorist attacks even as it failed, spectacularly, to defeat the Taliban.

The current military leadership hoped it could convince a new president to maintain at least a modest troop presence, trying to talk Biden into keeping a residual force and setting conditions on any withdrawal. But Biden refused to be persuaded.

There would be no conditions put on the withdrawal, Biden told the men, cutting off the last thread — one that had worked with Trump — and that Austin and General Milley hoped could stave off a full drawdown.

They were told, Zero meant zero.

“We’ve seen this movie before,” Mr. Austin warned the president during one of several meetings at the White House before Biden made his decision.

For the president, it came down to a simple choice, according to officials with knowledge of the debate: Acknowledge that the Afghan government and its fragile security forces would need an American troop presence to prop them up indefinitely, or leave.

“No one wants to say that we should be in Afghanistan forever, but they insist now is not the right moment to leave,” Biden said in announcing his decision on Wednesday. “So when will it be the right moment to leave? One more year? Two more years? Ten more years?”

Biden had joined 97 other senators on Sept. 14, 2001, to vote in favor of going to war in Afghanistan. He had even been in favor of the Iraq war the next year.

In 2008, during visits to Afghanistan as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he “found confusion at all levels about our strategy and objectives,” Robert M. Gates, the former defense secretary, wrote in a memoir, “Duty.” Biden was so frustrated with the Afghan leadership, Gates added, that he once threw down his napkin and walked out of a dinner with President Hamid Karzai.

As vice president, Biden clashed with the Pentagon, including Gates, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about troop levels in the country, arguing for bringing them down to a minimal counterterrorism force. (He lost that battle.) And Biden was furious, Obama reported in his memoir, at generals who were trying to force a decision to commit additional troops with leaks saying that if more were not sent, the result would be mission failure.

Obama wrote that Biden used a vivid epithet and warned him about generals who “are trying to box in a new president.” The vice president leaned forward, putting his face “a few inches from mine and stage-whispered, ‘Don’t let them jam you,’” Obama recalled.

Indeed, a quiet lobbying campaign by top Pentagon officials and regional commanders to keep a small counterterrorism force in Afghanistan for a few more years, if not longer, started soon after Biden took office in January.

Military officials, who had become frustrated with dealing with Trump, said the chance to deal with a president who would actually follow a policy process before announcing a decision was a welcome one. But they also knew from the start that the methods they had employed with Trump were likely to no longer work.

The Defense Department had fended off an effort by Trump to abruptly pull out all remaining U.S. troops by last Christmas.

In the new president, Pentagon officials and top commanders were holding on to the hope that because Biden had campaigned during the Obama years to keep a small counterterrorism force in Afghanistan (as opposed to 100,000 troops), they might have a more sympathetic ear.

Shortly after Austin was sworn in on January 22, two days after the inauguration, he, General Milley and two top military officers — Gen. Austin S. Miller, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the head of the military’s Central Command, were in lock step in recommending that about 3,000 to 4,500 troops stay in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon’s behind-the-scenes effort got a lift from a congressionally appointed panel led by a friend of all four men: Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., a retired four-star Marine general who was also a former top commander in Afghanistan and past chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On February 3, it recommended that the Biden administration should abandon the May 1 exit deadline negotiated with the Taliban and instead reduce U.S. forces further only as security conditions improved.

The report by the Afghanistan Study Group, a bipartisan panel examining the peace deal reached in February 2020 under the Trump administration, found that withdrawing troops based on a strict timeline, rather than how well the Taliban adhered to the agreement to reduce violence and improve security, risked the stability of the country and a potential civil war once international forces left.

The panel said that experts told it that 4,500 U.S. troops, the number in Afghanistan last fall, was the right figure.

But sending additional troops to Afghanistan went against everything Biden had advocated over the years. Even before he was elected, his staff had begun examining force levels in Afghanistan, and, more important, what they could accomplish. There were teams of foreign policy specialists, all out of power for a number of years, looking anew at Afghanistan — and asking the question of what would happen if all U.S. troops were pulled out.

The Pentagon effort received another setback when Biden’s new director of national intelligence, Avril D. Haines, conveyed intelligence assessments that the nexus of terrorism had shifted from Afghanistan to Africa and other havens. That raised the question: Was the U.S. massing its forces for a 2001 threat or a 2021 threat?

But Ms. Haines and the newly confirmed CIA director, William J. Burns, were also clear that if Biden decided to pull out, there would be costs to intelligence collection. On Wednesday, presenting the government’s annual threat assessment to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Burns said: “When the time comes for the U.S. military to withdraw, the U.S. government’s ability to collect and act on threats will diminish. That is simply a fact.”

There was another worry circulating in the White House, the Pentagon and intelligence agencies. They feared that once the U.S. left, it was only a matter of time — maybe months, maybe years — until Kabul fell. The discussion, one participant said, reminded him of accounts he had read of the decision-making over troops exiting Vietnam in 1973. Then, the Nixon administration was seeking a “decent interval,” to use the phrase at the time, before the fall of the Saigon government. It turned out the interval was a little more than two years.

The participant said the discussions on Afghanistan in the context of the collapse of South Vietnam were eerie.

But Biden argued that if Kabul were to be attacked, there was not much a mere 3,000 American troops in the country could do about it. And as long as they were there, would not the Afghan government have little reason to become self-reliant for its own defense?

As the policy debate extended into March, Biden administration officials said they grew alarmed at news reports that suggested the lengthy debate meant that troops would stay.

At meetings of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels on March 23 and 24, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken sought to put allies on notice that they should start thinking about how to conduct withdrawals of their own troops in Afghanistan, a combat disengagement that the Pentagon describes as a “military retrograde operation.” Such movements often — as they are now — require sending additional troops to make sure that the departing forces can get out safely.

For Pentagon officials, it was starting to become clear that their efforts would fall short this time. But officials insisted that throughout the process, Biden heard them out.

“What I can tell you is this was an inclusive process, and their voices were heard and their concerns taken into consideration as the President made his decision,” Austin told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday, referring to the generals.

“But now that the decision has been made, I call upon them to lead their forces through this effort, through this transition,” Austin said. “And knowing them all very well, as I do, I have every confidence that they will in fact lead their forces through this effort.”

The two-decade war effort degraded Al Qaeda and killed Bin Laden.

But the rest — nation-building, democratization, establishing an effective internal security force, defending the rights of women and minorities — may have been a step beyond any military’s capabilities.

America’s mission in Afghanistan isn’t accomplished

Bradley Bowman, senior director at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, served as an Army officer in Afghanistan, was an assistant professor at the U.S. Military Academy and was a senior adviser on the staffs of former senator Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.).

In The Washington Post, Bradley Bowman wrote on April 17, 2021:

President Biden has rightly said the purpose of sending U.S. forces has been “to ensure Afghanistan would not be used as a base from which to attack our homeland again.” But he is dangerously wrong in suggesting U.S. forces are no longer needed in Afghanistan to accomplish that objective.

As an Afghanistan veteran, I have asked the same questions. But a review of the continuing terrorist threat and the vulnerability of the Afghan government demonstrate that a date-certain withdrawal would empower terrorists, invite all-out civil war and endanger the Afghan government.

Biden’s speech reveals a troubling gap between the reasoning informing his withdrawal plan and realities on the ground.

Biden’s remark leaves many with the incorrect impression that the international terrorist threat in Afghanistan is over.

The Afghanistan-Pakistan region remains a hotbed for terrorist groups. In December, former Trump national security adviser retired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster said the broader region includes “over 20 U.S. designated jihadist terrorist organizations.” The U.S. intelligence community, in its Annual Threat Assessment, issued April 9, found that al-Qaeda leaders “continue calls for attacks against the United States and other international targets, and seek to advance plotting around the world.”

If American forces leave, we will know less about terrorist activities in the region and will be slower and less effective in responding. “When the time comes for the U.S. military to withdraw, the U.S. government’s ability to collect and act on threats will diminish,” CIA Director William J. Burns said on Wednesday, the same day as Biden’s speech. “That’s simply a fact.”

Reflecting an appreciation of the continued threat, the administration is reportedly considering how to put counterterrorism elements in neighboring countries, and to position air assets nearby. But as Joseph Maguire, a retired admiral, top Navy SEAL officer and former acting director of national intelligence, told the New York Times, “there is no substitute for being there.” He warns that “our effectiveness in protecting our homeland will be significantly diminished.”

Even if we can detect a terrorism target with our reduced intelligence capabilities, counterterrorism experts such as Foundation for Defense of Democracies analyst David Kilcullen say not having military bases in closer proximity to potential targets will make it more difficult to carry out any necessary counterterror strikes that — along with international support for the Afghan security forces — have been essential to denying breathing space to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

In this month alone, the New York Times reports, 147 pro-government troops have been killed. And as Afghans fight to secure their country, Americans benefit: Terrorists there have been deprived of the uncontested safe havens they seek to launch another major international terrorist attack.

As Afghans have increased their capacity over time, they have enabled Americans to go home. U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan have dropped dramatically from close to 100,000 a decade ago to a range estimated between 2,500 and 3,500 today. But Afghan forces still need help to address threats in their country, including training and continued assistance related to intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, medical evacuation and close air support.

Taliban leaders know this, and it is one of the reasons they are eager for Americans to depart. They believe they can defeat the Afghan government after the U.S. military withdraws. And if Biden’s withdrawal proceeds, they will soon have the opportunity to test that proposition. The U.S. intelligence community assesses that the “Taliban is likely to make gains on the battlefield, and the Afghan Government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support.” Similarly, in its February report to Congress, the Afghanistan Study Group concluded that “withdrawing U.S. troops irresponsibly would likely lead to a new civil war in Afghanistan, inviting the reconstitution of anti-U.S. terrorist groups that could threaten our homeland.”

By pinning our departure to the calendar, rather than specific markers of progress, Biden risks repeating the mistake President Barack Obama made when he withdrew militarily from Iraq on a set timeline at the end of 2011.

If Biden repeats that playbook in Afghanistan, Americans should expect a comparable result. Perhaps that is why Democratic former congressman and former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta — who served as CIA director and defense secretary during Obama’s administration — recently offered this caution:

Americans are certainly right to scrutinize and debate military interventions. There is much to criticize, for example, about the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 and how the campaign in Afghanistan has been conducted.

But we must also apply the same scrutiny to withdrawals. In doing so, Americans will find that some withdrawals can be equally deleterious to our national security, especially when the withdrawals are conducted precipitously and without clear preconditions.

So, what it is be done? To start, our leaders should level with the American people about the situation in Afghanistan.

The Taliban has not negotiated in good faith with the Afghan government and will have even less incentive to do so once coalition forces leave. They have waited us out, and now they can see that paying off. Taliban leaders have refused to break with al-Qaeda and prevent it from operating in Afghanistan — one of the stipulations under the Trump administration’s agreement with the Taliban that called for U.S. forces to leave Afghanistan in May. Al-Qaeda continues to enjoy the Taliban’s protection — and the Taliban benefits from al-Qaeda’s advice and financial support.

Americans should understand that there is a real risk that civil war could erupt once the U.S.-led coalition withdraws, and we could eventually see a Taliban-controlled, al-Qaeda-influenced country bordering nuclear-armed Pakistan.

These threats will not just go away once we leave. Rather than looking for the exits, then, the prudent course would be to view a modest U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, with troop levels roughly comparable to the coalition presence there now, as part of America’s enduring global military posture, a manageable investment in American security. To put it in perspective, U.S. strength in Afghanistan today is around 10 percent of the U.S. force stationed in South Korea.

Clearly, we must always ensure our troops have what they need to defend themselves and carry out their mission. And we certainly shouldn’t keep our service members in harm’s way a day longer than America’s interests require.

But given the continued threats in Afghanistan and the benefits of retaining a modest force there, the burden of proof rests with anyone — including members of Congress and the president — making the case to the American public that we can safely withdraw in September.

Blinken offers assurances in Afghanistan, but some voice skepticism

The Wall Street Journal wrote:

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken assured Afghan leaders and citizens that U.S. support for their country would continue during and after a planned U.S. troop withdrawal ordered this week by President Biden.

But some of those with whom Blinken met during an unannounced visit Thursday voiced anxiety over the U.S. plan to begin withdrawing its remaining 3,500 troops on May 1 and to complete the pullout by September 11.

“My views are very pessimistic,” said Naheed Farid, a member of Parliament who leads the women’s affairs committee, when asked about Afghanistan’s future.

“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 Ghani and others at the presidential palace. “The partnership is changing, but the partnership is enduring.”

He also acknowledged a sense of anxiety among Afghans. “This is a time of transition. And with any transition comes uncertainty,” Mr. Blinken said at a news conference.

Earlier, he told U.S. Embassy staff members, “I know that there are a lot of uncertainties in light of the president’s announcement.” He added that staffers’ safety and security would be a priority.

The U.S. is working with other nations to encourage a political settlement between the Taliban and the Afghan government.


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