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May 4, 2021

Hillary warns of ‘huge consequences’ of Afghan pullout

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May 4, 2021

NEW YORK: Former United States (US) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned that the US could face “huge consequences” of President Joe Biden’s decision to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan.

Biden announced plans last month to withdraw the remaining 2,500 troops from Afghanistan, where the US has been at war for nearly 20 years. All US troops are expected to leave the country by Sept 11.

As the US begins its withdrawal, the former secretary of state was asked by CNN about Biden’s decision to leave. “It’s one thing to pull out troops that have been supporting security in Afghanistan, supporting the Afghan military, leaving it pretty much to fend for itself, but we can’t afford to walk away from the consequences of that decision,” she said.

While acknowledging that the decision was a “difficult” one, Mrs Clinton noted the potential for “two huge consequences” — a Taliban-controlled Afghan government and subsequent “huge refugee outflow”.

There could be “a largely Taliban-run government at some point in the not-too-distant future” in Afghanistan, said Clinton, the 2016 Democratic candidate for president.

“How do we help and protect the many, many thousands of Afghans who worked with the United States and NATO, who worked with American and other NATO-connected contractors who stood up and spoke out for women’s rights and human rights?” she asked.

“I hope that the administration in concert with the Congress will have a very large visa programme and will begin immediately to try to provide that channel for so many Afghans to utilise so that they are not left in danger. “There will also be, I fear, a huge refugee outflow," Mrs Clinton said.

“And, of course, the second big set of problems revolves around a resumption of activities by global terrorist groups, most particularly al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.” American troops have been in Afghanistan since October 2001, following the 9/11 attacks.

Former US president Donald Trump had wanted to withdraw by May 1, but Biden said that deadline would be hard to meet due to “tactical reasons”.

Mrs Clinton and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice previously told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee they were worried about Biden’s plan to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan, according to Axios, an American news website.

On its part, Pakistan has said that the US troop withdrawal should be linked with the progress in the peace process in the war-torn neighbouring country.

The US and its NATO allies went into Afghanistan together on Oct 7, 2001, to hunt the al-Qaeda perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, who lived under the protection of the country’s Taliban rulers. In his withdrawal announcement, Biden said the initial mission was accomplished a decade ago when US Navy SEALS, a commando unit, killed Osama bin Laden in his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan. “We followed bin Laden to the gates of hell — and we got him,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House to mark the 10th anniversary of al-Qaeda leader’s killing.

The US is estimated to have spent $2 trillion in Afghanistan alone over the last 20 years, losing over 2,300 American soldiers during the fighting that ensued, along with an estimated over 47,000 Taliban and Afghan civilians, according to the Costs of War project.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CBS’ ‘60 Minutes’ in an interview that aired Sunday night that Washington has to be prepared for every scenario. “Just because our troops are coming home doesn’t mean we’re leaving,” he said. “We’re not. Our embassy’s staying, the support that we’re giving to Afghanistan when it comes to— economic support, development, humanitarian, that— that remains. And not only from us, from partners and allies.”