WASHINGTON: President-elect Joe Biden‘s pick for his top diplomat said Tuesday he would undertake a review of a deal with Afghanistan‘s Taliban and believed the United States needed means to prevent any resurgence of terrorism.
Outgoing president Donald Trump’s administration signed a deal on February 29 last year with the Taliban to end America’s longest war but controversially kept some annexes classified.
“We want to end this so-called forever war. We want to bring our forces home. We want to retain some capacity to deal with any resurgence of terrorism, which is what brought us there in the first place,” Antony Blinken, Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, told his Senate confirmation hearing.
“We have to look carefully at what has actually been negotiated. I haven’t been privy to it yet.”
In the accord signed in Doha, the United States said it would withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by May 2021 and the Taliban pledged not to allow extremists to operate from Afghanistan, although the group continued attacks on government forces.
The removal of al-Qaida was the original reason for the US invasion following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
But the agreement came with annexes that remain classified, leading to criticism in the United States that there were secret understandings with the Taliban.
On its way out, the Trump administration said Friday it had reduced troop levels to just 2,500, the lowest in decades.
Biden was an early advocate of ending the war in Afghanistan but his aides have more recently spoken of the need for a small force to counter outbreaks of violence — a stance unlikely to be stomached by the Taliban.
Under questioning from Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a fellow Democrat, Blinken promised to consider the rights of women and girls whose freedoms were severely curtailed during the Taliban’s 1996-2001 regime.
“I don’t believe that any outcome that they might achieve,” Blinken said of nascent talks between the Taliban and Afghan government, “is sustainable without protecting the gains that have been made by women and girls in Afghanistan over the last 20 years.”
“I would acknowledge to you that I don’t think that’s going to be easy, but we will work on it.”