US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday that no one is interested in a civil war in Afghanistan, but added that it might be a possible scenario once the US military leaves the country.
Talking to CNN, in response to a question on concerns that Biden’s plans to withdraw US forces from the country by September 11 could create a vacuum that leads to civil war or another Taliban takeover, Blinken said: “That is certainly a possible scenario.”
But he reiterated 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 said as quoted by CNN.
Blinken said that countries in the region “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.”
“So a lot of people are having their minds concentrated by the President's decision,” Blinken said as quoted by CNN.
In a CNN interview, Blinken reiterated that even as the US is withdrawing its forces, “we are 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.”
This comes as US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on Tuesday testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on US policy in Afghanistan where lawmakers questioned him about how Afghan women will be protected if the Taliban takes control after American troops leave the country.
US, NATO Forces Preparing for Withdrawal
Top US commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Austin Scott Miller, this week said the American and coalition forces have started the withdrawal process and they will continue to support their Afghan counterparts.
“All of our forces are now preparing to retrograde,” Miller told reporters in Kabul. “The notification day will be the first of May but at the same time as we start taking local actions, we have already begun that.”
He said that he has “a set of orders” and he has “some very clear objectives.”
“First and foremost, it's my objective to ensure that the Afghan security forces are in the best possible security posture. Also... we will conduct an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan and that means transitioning bases and equipment to the Afghan security forces," Miller said.
He added that he was "charged with ensuring it is as safe as possible, meaning we will protect the force as we depart from Afghanistan."
Miller said that the US has “the military means and capability to fully protect our force during retrograde, as well as, support the Afghan security forces.”
“As we retrograde to zero US forces, we will turn over the bases primarily to the Ministry of Defense and other Afghan forces and that’s all bases as we start moving through the retrograde,” he said.
Miller said that they will continue with handing over equipment to their Afghan counterparts.