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Biden defends Afghanistan withdrawal as Taliban seize $6million US Blackhawk helicopters, tons of American equipment

By John Okeke

President Biden dug in on Saturday, defending his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan despite a rapidly deteriorating situation for the Afghan government as the Taliban continues to overtake major provinces and cities. 

In a statement released by the White House Saturday afternoon, the president said that continued military presence in the region “would not have made a difference” after over 20 years of conflict in the country. 

“Over our country’s 20 years at war in Afghanistan, America has sent its finest young men and women, invested nearly $1 trillion dollars, trained over 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police, equipped them with state-of-the-art military equipment, and maintained their air force as part of the longest war in US history,” Biden said. 

“One more year, or five more years, of US military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country. And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me,” he continued.

The president traveled to Camp David this week, and is expected to remain there until Wednesday. 

The news comes amid a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, where full control of the country by the insurgent group could be close at hand. 

Afghanistan’s fourth largest city and the government’s northern stronghold fell to the Taliban on Saturday. Afzal Hadid, head of the Balkh provincial council, confirmed that Mazar-i-Sharif had been captured and said all security forces had left the major city. 

Biden also appeared to blame his predecessor, former President Trump’s, whose actions he claimed “left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on US forces.”

“Therefore, when I became President, I faced a choice—follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies’ forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict,” he added.

Biden stated that many administrations have overseen conflict in Afghanistan, and he does not want to see it passed on to another administration.

The president said he remained firm that the U.S. was committed to supporting Afghanistan adding that around 5,000 troops would be deployed to help draw down its embassy staff and evacuate Afghans — more troops than the 3,000 that were previously announced would be deployed for the effort on Thursday.

A defense official told Reuters that only 1,000 new troops would be added to the country. The number also includes the 3,000 troops that were scheduled to be deployed over the week and 1,000 troops that were already in country.

Meanwhile, Taliban fighters have now taken control of the skies above Afghanistan after seizing a number mi-17 transport helicopters, as the crisis in the Middle East continues to escalate.

A series of videos being shared on social media show insurgents flying the Russian-made aircraft around the city of Kandahar, with concerns continuing to grow over the militants’ ongoing grab for power.

Even more seismic, however, is the evidence that the Taliban have also seized American-made Black Hawk helicopters, made famous in the 2001 Ridley Scott blockbuster.

While fighters are unlikely to have the knowledge or expertise to fly or maintain the state-of-the-art aircraft, it is set to cause embarrassment in the United States nonetheless.

The White House has spent billions of dollars on supplying the Afghan military with the necessary weapons and equipment to wipe out the Taliban, but following the collapse of local armed forces, their investment is now effectively being used by the insurgents themselves as they bid to control more and more major cities.

Social media in recent days has been awash with clips of fighters seizing weapons caches, but the taking of such high profile helicopters represents a significant statement of intent. 

It comes as Afghanistan’s fourth largest city, Mazar-e-Sharif, fell to the Taliban today after a multipronged assault launched by insurgents. 

Balkh lawmaker Abas Ebrahimzada said the province’s national army corps surrendered first, which prompted the pro-government militias and other forces to lose morale and give up in the face of the onslaught. 

According to the lawmaker, all of the provincial installations, including the governor’s office, are in Taliban hands. (AP)

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