Blinken says US pullout from Afghanistan could lead to civil war, Taliban takeover

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that President Biden’s plans to pull US forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 could lead to a civil war or another Taliban takeover.

“That is certainly a possible scenario,” the top US diplomat said on CNN, adding that “no one has an interest in renewed civil war in Afghanistan, certainly the Afghan people don’t.”

“Neither the Afghan government or the Taliban do, none of Afghanistan’s neighbors do, neighbors and other countries in the region that have basically been free riders for the last 20 years, as we’ve been engaged there with our NATO allies and partners,” Blinken told host Jake Tapper.

Those countries “are now going to have to decide, given their interests in a relatively stable Afghanistan, given the influence that they have, whether they’re going to try to use that influence in a way that keeps things within the 40-yard lines,” he continued.

“So a lot of people are having their minds concentrated by the president’s decision,” Blinken added.

Blinken stressed that despite the imminent withdrawal, the US is “not disengaging from Afghanistan, we’re remaining deeply engaged in the diplomacy in support for the Afghan government and its people, development, economic assistance, humanitarian assistance, support for the security forces.”

He made his remarks shortly after senators from both sides of the aisle voiced their concerns during a Foreign Relations Committee hearing that the withdrawal would lead to a Taliban resurgence, reverse gains made by Afghan women, and endanger hostages and Afghans who worked with American forces.

The lawmakers grilled Biden’s Afghanistan peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad about how women will be protected if the Taliban take control after the US withdrawal — and threatened to withhold funding if rights gains are reversed.

“I don’t believe under any circumstances that the United States Senate will support assistance for Afghanistan, especially under the World Bank’s program which provides budget support, if the Taliban has taken a governing role that ends civil society advances and rolls back women’s rights,” said committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

Khalilzad, special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, testified at the committee’s first public hearing on Afghanistan policy since the president announced plans to withdraw troops after two decades of war.

When Biden made his announcement April 14, he said Washington would continue providing assistance to Afghan security forces and civilian programs, including those for women and girls.

In his CNN interview, Blinken discussed the Afghans who worked with US forces and diplomats, and the concerns that they may be targeted by the Taliban.

“We want to make sure that people who put their lives on the line, working with American folks in uniform, working with our diplomats who put, not just themselves in jeopardy, potentially their families as well, can get expedited consideration if they decide that they want to try to come to the United States,” he said.

Meanwhile, Blinken also was asked about a possible meeting between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin and said the two countries are in discussions.

“I don’t know if there’s a formal acceptance, but I know we’re talking about it and talking about the timing of such a meeting,” he told Tapper.

With Post wires

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