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Approximately one year after the US completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, retired Army Gen. Jack Keane lamented that the situation there is no different than it was when the US first began its 20-year war there in 2001.
In an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” Keane pointed not just to the resurgence of the Taliban, but the presence of al Qaeda, despite the US recently killing Usama bin Laden’s deputy in the 9/11 terror attacks, Ayman al-Zawahri. In fact, Keane said that Zawahiri’s presence in Afghanistan at the time of the American strike is proof of the problem.
“We went to Afghanistan to stop the Taliban from providing sanctuary to the al Qaeda, from which the attack on the United States took place. We all know that. And what did this decision get us? It got us the Taliban in charge again… providing sanctuary to the al Qaeda,” said Keane, former Army vice chief of staff. “And Zawahiri’s killing resurrected the fact that he’s living in a Taliban house in a neighborhood that I’ve been to many times, where senior Taliban leaders are in residence. And obviously, they are protecting the al Qaeda leader as well as his organization. “
Keane added that “to date, we’ve done nothing against the organization or done nothing against ISIS.”
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Far from the Taliban rooting out terrorists, Keanse said that Afghanistan is now “a sanctuary for terrorism” under their control.
“The very reason we went there, the very reason we stayed there for 20 years, to ensure that terrorists did not rise again, to attack the American people, and we’re right back where we started,” he said.
Keane then offered harsh criticism of President Biden, asserting that the commander-in-chief went against the recommendations of advisers and allies alike, calling him “defiant” in his insistence that the US withdraw by the end of August 2021.
“He was advised by the military, by the intelligence services, and by many of his foreign policy advisers, and all of the NATO nations to maintain the stalemate that we had, the status quo,” Keanse said. The general, who is now a Fox News strategic analyst, admitted that this was not a “perfect situation,” but it had kept the Taliban from retaking control of the country, and prevented al Qaeda and ISIS from building their presence there.
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“The president thought he knew better, and he was very defiant and rejected all of their advice,” Keane said. “And then, he presented a false narrative to the American people, which I find very disturbing. He said, my choice is get out now, or have to put thousands of American troops back in here to fight the Taliban and take casualties doing that .”
Keane insisted that this was not the choice, as the US had “not been in direct combat with the Taliban since 2014.”
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Keane also criticized the US decision not to accept an offer from the Taliban to control Kabul, which would have meant having a secure airport.
“Obviously that would have been a little bit more than we were intending to bite off in doing that,” Keane admitted, “but it would have given us the opportunity to conduct a very methodical withdrawal as opposed to this chaos that we saw.”
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The retired general then weighed in on the reported after-action review that the State Department and Department of Defense are expected to release in the near future. He said he hopes it covers not just the withdrawal from Afghanistan, but the entire two decades the US was there.
“Let’s learn some lessons here about these decisions in terms of going forward, and let’s be honest with what took place and the mistakes that were made,” he said.