NEW YORK (TASS): The Pentagon will prepare recommendations for President Joe Biden on the issue of extending the evacuation from Afghanistan after August 31 closer to that date. This was anno-unced on Sunday by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in an interview with ABC TV channel.
“We will continue to assess the situation and will work hard to take out as many people as possible. As we approach this date, we will prepare recommendations for the president,” he said in response to a related question.
At the same time, Austin avoided answering the question whether all American citizens and the Afghans collaborating with them would be removed from Afghanistan. Instead, he reiterated that the US military is making every effort to achieve this goal.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that “nobody predicted” the Afghan government “would fall in 11 days.”
“It was very difficult to predict with accuracy. This all occurred in a span of about 11 days. Nobody predicted that, you know, the government would fall in 11 days,” Austin told host.
Austin said assessments he reviewed prior to the insurgent group’s takeover estimated it could be several months or one to two years before the Afghan government fell.
He told Raddatz that U.S. officials saw Afghan military forces surrendering and “just kind of evaporating” as the Taliban began to make gains.
When pressed on whether the U.S.’s planning for the withdrawal was “acceptable and appropriate,” Austin responded, “I do based upon, you know, what we were looking at and the inputs to the plan” before criticizing the previous administration for providing a situation in which “there were no good options.”
“But I think you have to go back and look at what the administration inherited. I mean, we came in. We were faced with a May 1 deadline to have all forces out of the country. This deal had been struck with the Taliban. And so he [President Biden] had to very rapidly go through a detailed assessment and look at all options in terms of what, you know, what he could do. And none of those options were good options,” Austin said.
“He went through a very rigorous process, very detailed process. He listened to the input that was provided by all of the stakeholders in the interagency process. And so, at the end of the day, the president made his decision. But again he was faced with a situation where there were no good options. All were very tough,” he added.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd’s remarks come after a week of turmoil in Afghanistan, as the U.S. military worked to evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies from the region amid the Taliban’s ramped-up offensive.