April 19, 2021
National security adviser Jake Sullivan admitted Sunday the Biden administration cannot guarantee that withdrawing United States troops from Afghanistan will not create another power vacuum that emboldens terrorist groups like the Islamic State.
Biden announced last week that he would formally withdraw all U.S. personnel from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the infamous terror attacks on U.S. soil.
Currently, there are about 2,500 U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan, along with 1,000 special forces personnel.
What is the background?
After U.S. forces successfully defeated al Qaeda in Iraq, then-President Barack Obama ordered the full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011.
The move is now seen as a strategic failure, likely creating a power vacuum that allowed ISIS to exponentially grow in the destabilized region.
Army officer Ryan N. Mannina explains:
[T]he [Obama] administration mishandled the withdrawal of US forces in 2011, leaving the Sunnis vulnerable and the Iraqi security forces (ISF) unprepared to take responsibility for the country’s security. Almost simultaneously, a civil war broke out in Syria. The remnants of AQI—under a new name, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS or the Islamic State)—exploited the conflict to renew their jihad and rebuild their combat power. Iraq’s Sunni minority—alienated and abandoned—began fighting back against oppression by the Maliki government. In 2014, the Sunnis welcomed ISIS back into Anbar province and helped them seize nearly a third of Iraq’s territory, establishing the physical caliphate ISIS had always dreamed of building.
What did Sullivan say?
Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Sullivan admitted that he “can’t make any guarantees” that Biden’s troop withdrawal will not result in another power vacuum that will be exploited by terrorists.
“I can’t make any guarantees about what will happen inside the country. No one can,” Sullivan said.
“All the United States could do is provide the Afghan security forces, the Afghan government, and the Afghan people resources and capabilities, training and equipping their forces, providing assistance to their government,” he continued. “We have done that, and now, it is time for American troops to come home and the Afghan people to step up to defend their own country.”
Though Sullivan did not provide details, he explained the U.S. has the capabilities to “suppress the terror threat” in Afghanistan without having U.S. personnel stationed there, but reiterated that Biden has “no intention” of sending troops back to Afghanistan.
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