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McConnell: US retreat from Afghanistan ‘a lot worse than Saigon in 1975’

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (AP photo)

US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has called Washington’s retreat from Afghanistan "a lot worse than Saigon in 1975,” referring to the hasty evacuation of remaining American troops from Vietnam when the city of Saigon fell two years after former President Richard Nixon withdrew American forces in the country.

In an interview on Tuesday, McConnell also pushed US President Joe Biden to continue the evacuation of Americans and their allies beyond an end-of-the-month deadline for the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

"The president needs to forget about the August 31 deadline. ... Extend the deadline, get outside the perimeter, make sure that every single American who wants to leave can get out with our assistance and our Afghan allies," McConnell told Fox News.

"The Taliban should not be allowed to tell us how long we are there to get our personnel out. That's our decision, not theirs," he added.

The Taliban took over the capital Kabul on August 8 and declared that the war in Afghanistan was over. The militants entered the presidential palace after president Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

The US was forced to close the embassy in Kabul and evacuate diplomats and staff by helicopters.

American journalist Don Debar told Press TV that “this entire war, since Jimmy Carter started it (using George Bush, the first's CIA and Donald Rumsfeld's military intelligence) and George Bush II deployed regulars, through the Obama-Trump and now the Biden administration's time, has been a ‘Saigon moment.’”

‘Biden to stick with Aug. 31 deadline’

On Tuesday, a Biden administration official said that the US president does not plan to extend the August 31 deadline for withdrawing all American troops from Afghanistan.

American media reported that Biden will accept a recommendation from US military officials that more time is not necessary to evacuate American citizens and civilians from the country.

Biden has previously said American troops would remain in Afghanistan into September if needed to bring all American nationals home, but he also said an extension would not be necessary.

"There's discussions going on among us and the military about extending," Biden said Sunday. "Our hope is we will not have to extend, but there are going to be discussions, I suspect, on how far along we are in the process."

Biden held a virtual call on Tuesday morning with other Group of Seven (G-7) leaders, some of whom had advocated for the extension of the war into September so Afghan allies could be safely evacuated.

The Biden administration pressed on with the withdrawal even as the Taliban were rapidly advancing on major Afghan cities.

The Taliban offensive culminated with their seizure of the capital Kabul on August 15.

US officials have argued that their hands were tied by an agreement the administration of former President Donald Trump had signed with the Taliban in February 2020.

Under that agreement, the US was supposed to have withdrawn all its troops by May 1 of this year. Biden, however, pushed the deadline to September 11, then moved it forward to August 31.

The US president has in recent days signaled that he might extend the military presence in Afghanistan beyond the deadline to help with the evacuation of Americans and Afghan allies trapped in the country.

The Taliban said on Monday that such a move would mean “extending occupation” and that is “a red line.”

The Taliban are poised to run Afghanistan again 20 years after they were removed from power by American forces following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

 


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