KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is making an unannounced visit to Afghanistan to sell Afghan leaders and a wary public on President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw all American troops from the country.
Blinken met separately with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, his governing partner Abdullah Abdullah, and civic figures, to try to assure them that the U.S. remains committed to the country.
The visit came a day after Biden announced that the remaining 2,500 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan would be coming home before the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that led to the U.S. invasion in 2001.
NATO immediately followed suit, saying its roughly 7,000 non-American forces in Afghanistan would also be departing within a few months.
During a speech on Wednesday, Biden said the U.S. will begin the withdrawal from Afghanistan on May 1 and the forces won’t “conduct a hasty rush to the exit.” Instead, he said they’ll do so “responsibly, deliberately and safely.”
Biden said if the Taliban attacks the U.S. as it draws down, the nation’s troops will defend themselves with all the tools at their disposal.
The withdrawal announcement has been met with criticism from Republican lawmakers. Fox News reports that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the decision a "grave mistake."
"It is a retreat in the face of an enemy that has not yet been vanquished," McConnell said, according to Fox News.
At a White House briefing Tuesday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki responded to McConnell's remarks directly.
"The president has been consistent in his view that there is not a military solution in Afghanistan and that we have been there far too long," Psaki said, adding that "we need to focus our resources on the threats we face today."