PARIS: Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday said the status quo was not an option for the US in Afghanistan, as it prepares to withdraw troops by September despite a rise in attacks.
“We are seeing elevated attacks on the Afghan security forces in certain parts of the country compared to a year ago,” Blinken said on a visit to Paris.
He acknowledged the US had to look “very hard” to see if the Taliban was “at all” serious about bringing peace to the country.
“Actions that are trying to take the country by force are, of course, totally inconsistent with trying to find a peaceful resolution.”
But he added: “Had we not begun the process of drawing down ... the status quo would not have held... The status quo was not an option.”
His comments come as Afghan leader Ashraf Ghani meets later Friday with President Joe Biden in the White House, with his government under increasing threat from an emboldened Taliban insurgency.
Biden has ordered the departure of all US forces from Afghanistan by this year’s 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks that triggered the invasion, saying he believes that no more can be achieved.
Biden has ordered the departure of all US forces from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the attacks that triggered the invasion.
The final pullout, begun last year by then-president Donald Trump and confirmed by Biden in April, has moved fast.
Some speculate the exit of some 2,500 US troops and 16,000 civilian contractors could be mostly completed in July.
“This visit is first about our ongoing commitment and support to the Afghan people and to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday.
“The president will emphasize the need for unity, cohesion, and for the Afghan government to focus on key challenges Afghanistan faces.”
But the White House will also pressure the Afghan leader to strike a deal with the Taliban.
“We believe that a negotiated political settlement is the best way to end the conflict,” Jean-Pierre told journalists.
Possibly underscoring how uncomfortable the situation is for both sides, no press conference was planned.