Washington defended its decision on Friday to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan amid reports of rapid military advancement by the Taliban and heightened fears of the militant group’s takeover of Kabul.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said maintaining the status quo was not an option. “We are seeing a higher number of attacks against Afghan security forces in parts of the country, compared to last year. But the status quo would not have helped, the status quo was not an option,” he said at a press conference during a visit to Paris.
Blinken’s statement comes as the top leadership of the Afghan government, led by President Ashraf Ghani, arrived in Washington to discuss the peace process and future relations with US President Joe Biden.
The visit comes as the Taliban has ramped up fighting across the country and has taken control of more than 50 districts in the last month.
Blinken conceded that the Taliban’s increased violence is “totally inconsistent with finding a peaceful resolution” and posed “a real danger" that could lead to a “renewal of a war or possibly worse.”
He said the US was looking “very carefully” and “very hard” at the situation on whether the Taliban is at all serious about the peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Blinken acknowledged that maintaining US forces would have helped Kabul significantly but had the withdrawal not begun by the date of the deal, then the Taliban’s commitment of not attacking US forces would have ended and resulted in deploying additional troops in Afghanistan. “What is almost certain is that our military would have come to us and said, ‘Well, the situation has changed, we need more forces.’ And we would have repeated the cycle that we’ve been in for 20 years. And at some point, you have to say this has to stop,” he said.
The US began to withdraw its troops and military equipment from Afghanistan in April and plans to complete the process by Sept. 11. International forces under the NATO-led coalition have also begun to depart.
The US has maintained it will continue to support the Afghan government and the ongoing peace process to “bring an end to the conflict” as well as “to ensure the country never again becomes a safe haven for terrorist groups who pose a threat to the US.”