Without saying directly that the U.S. was shutting down its embassy in Afghanistan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that the U.S. was evacuating personnel from the facility in Kabul.
“We are working to make sure that our personnel are safe and secure,” Blinken told host Jonathan Karl on ABC's “This Week.”
“We're relocating the men and women of our embassy to a location at the airport. It's why the president sent in a number of forces, to make sure that as we continue to draw down our diplomatic presence we do it in a safe and orderly fashion,” he said.
Blinken deflected a follow-up question as to whether the evacuations meant the embassy was being shut down entirely.
Karl suggested that the images of helicopters airlifting American personnel recalled the panicked exodus from Saigon during the chaotic end to the Vietnam War in 1975. Blinken rejected that comparison.
“Let's take a step back. This is manifestly not Saigon,” said Blinken, saying the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 had succeeded in its primary goal, getting rid of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“That message should ring out very strongly,” he added later.
President Joe Biden announced a final pullout of U.S. forces from Afghanistan earlier this year. Blinken rejected the notion that keeping a limited contingent of American forces would have stopped the Taliban, saying the Trump administration's promise of U.S. withdrawal created a scenario by which a large Taliban offensive was inevitable at some point.
“Remember that a deadline was established by the previous administration of May 1st to get our remaining forces out of Afghanistan and the idea that we could’ve sustained the status quo by keeping our forces there, I think, is wrong, because here’s what would have happened if the president decided to keep those forces there,” he said.
“During the period from when the agreement was reached to May 1st, the Taliban had ceased attacking our forces, ceased attacking NATO forces. It had also held off on this major offensive that we see now, Blinken said.
“Come May 2nd, if the President decided to say — all gloves would have been off. We would have been back at war with the Taliban. They would have been attacking our forces,” he said.
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