A year-end press conference held at the State Department has confirmed that the US pulled out of Afghanistan to arm Ukraine.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged on Thursday that Washington was able to focus resources on Ukraine just months after the widely criticised exit from Afghanistan, which he dubbed “America’s longest war.”
At a year-end press conference held at the State Department, Blinken painted a favorable image of Washington’s diplomatic achievements. It was brought up because a reporter disputed Blinken’s assertion of close ties to US “allies and partners,” some of whom she claimed were critical of how the US conducted that operation. The pullout from Afghanistan, which took place in August 2021, was brought up as a result.
Bliken claimed that assertions to the contrary are “not born out by the facts” and that consultations were “sustained, they were intense, and we strongly took note of everything that we heard from allies and partners in advance of the decisions that President [Joe] Biden made and that we made.”
Despite the fact that the reporter had inquired about the implications of that withdrawal for “dealing with Russia and China,” Blinken went on to claim that “if we were still in Afghanistan, I think it would have made much more complicated the support that we’ve been able to give and that others have been able to give Ukraine against Russia.”
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On August 31, 2021, the final US soldier left the airport in Kabul. Two weeks prior, the US-backed Afghan government had collapsed with little resistance, putting the Taliban back in power where they had been in 2001.
The US spent almost $73 billion in 2021 on training, equipping, sustaining, and supporting the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), the majority of it coming from the Pentagon budget, despite estimates of the 20-year conflict costing over $2 trillion. The majority of the ANDSF’s weapons and gear were seized by the Taliban.
Comparatively, the Russian Defense Ministry earlier this week calculated that the overall sum of Western assistance to Ukraine this year was over $97 billion. By its own admission, the Pentagon has provided Ukraine with direct “security assistance” totaling at least $20 billion since February 2022. The remainder was covered by NATO and EU countries as well as other US government entities.
On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky paid a personal visit to Washington, DC, where he was presented with a $1.85 billion packet of weapons and ammunition, including a battery of Patriot air defence missiles, as well as a commitment from Vice President Joe Biden to support Kiev for “as long as it takes.” Zelensky also spoke to a joint special session of Congress, pleading for the approval of an additional $45 billion in funding for 2023. The next day, the Senate took that action.