‘No good options’ in Afghan withdrawal plan, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Sunday there were “no good options” in the decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
“At the end of the day the president made his decision,” Austin said in an interview with ABC’s “This Week.” “But again, he was faced with a situation where there were no good options, all were very tough. And, you know, he reached his decision based upon thorough analysis.”
The defense secretary said the administration planned for several contingencies but admitted it was blindsided when US-armed Afghan forces collapsed and retreated instead of fighting back.
He said military assessments on how long the Afghans would hold out “ranged initially from one to two years, and added that “nobody predicted that, you know, the government would fall in 11 days.
“I will tell you again, 20 years of the best training, the world’s best equipment, you know a lot of effort — you have to be surprised by what you saw and when you can measure capability you can measure capacity,” he said.
“But it’s difficult to measure the will to fight.”
Austin also vowed that the US will use “every means possible” to get American citizens out of the country in the wake of a rapid Taliban takeover.
“I won’t forecast any option that we may take, but I will tell you that I’m going to do everything within my power to get people into the airfield” in Kabul, Austin told co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
“If we’re given more time, then we will do everything that we can to make the best use of that time,” he said. “It’s an interagency process that’s really honchoed or led by the State Department. But it’s all of our responsibility.”
Thousands of Afghans and US citizens flooded the airport in Kabul last week in a desperate rush to flee the country after a swift takeover by the extremist Taliban.
US forces occupied the country for two decades until former President Donald Trump signed a deal with the Taliban to withdraw last year — with President Joe Biden pulling the plug last week, sparking widespread chaos.