Secretary of State Blinken: Terror Threat in Afghanistan Has ‘Vastly Diminished’ since U.S. Invasion

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during the release of the “2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” at the State Department in Washington, D.C., March 30, 2021. (Mandel Ngan/Pool via Reuters)

In a press appearance Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken doubled down on President Biden’s assertion that the U.S. has largely achieved its counterterrorism mission goals since invading Afghanistan in 2001.

“We went to Afghanistan 20 years ago with one mission and one purpose in mind. And that was to deal with the folks who attacked us on 9/11, to bring bin Laden to justice . . . and to diminish the capacity of al Qaeda to do the same thing again, to attack us from Afghanistan and that, to the president’s point, has been successful,” Blinken remarked.

During a segment on Fox News Sunday, Blinken insisted that the terror threat that al Qaeda once posed has been degraded significantly since U.S. military intervention. “Al Qaeda’s capacity to do what it did on 9/11, to attack us, to attack our partners or allies from Afghanistan is vastly, vastly diminished,” he said.

Biden has drawn criticism for erroneously claiming at a press conference Friday that al Qaeda’s presence has disappeared from Afghanistan. “What interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point with al Qaeda gone?” the president said. Foreign-policy scholars and the Pentagon debunked Biden’s comment, pointing to the footprint the terrorist network still maintains in numerous Afghan provinces.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters Friday, “We know that al Qaeda is a presence, as well as ISIS, in Afghanistan, and we’ve talked about that for quite some time.”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley recently said he would consider upgrading the risk assessment for al Qaeda coalescing and rebuilding in the wake of the Taliban’s resurgence and takeover, according to a report obtained by the New York Post.

Addressing the backlash over the United States’ chaotic and still incomplete rescue of American citizens and eligible refugees stuck in the Afghan interior, Blinken blamed the Trump administration’s mismanagement of the special-visa program for the delayed departures.

“We inherited a program that was in a dead stall. No interviews had been done when we came into office for visas for these folks going back to March 2020,” he alleged.

Echoing the president and Defense secretary Lloyd Austin, Blinken’s explanation for why the administration didn’t evacuate Afghan nationals sooner was because it miscalculated the timeline for the collapse of the Afghan regime. Many Biden officials have reiterated that the situation on the ground deteriorated more rapidly than expected.

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