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US admits Afghan pullout helped arm Ukraine – Reuters

Secretary of State Blinken says helping Kyiv would have been ‘more complicated’ without Kabul’s exit

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken admitted on Thursday that the much-criticized withdrawal from Afghanistan, which he called “America’s Longest War” helped Washington redirect resources to Ukraine a few months later.

Appearing at the State Department for a year-end press conference, Blinken painted a rosy picture of Washington’s diplomatic accomplishments. The exit from Afghanistan, which happened in August 2021, came about because a reporter challenged Blinken’s assertion of strong relations with the United States. “allies and partners” some of them, she said, were critical of the United States’ handling of the operation.

Consultations have been “sustained, they have been intense, and we have taken strong note of everything we have heard from allies and partners ahead of the decisions that the President [Joe] Biden did and we did,” Bliken insisted, arguing that claims to the contrary are “not confirmed by the facts”.

Although the journalist asked about the lessons of this withdrawal in “Dealing with Russia and China”, Blinken went on to claim that “if we were still in Afghanistan, it would have, I think, made it much more complicated the support that we were able to provide and that others were able to provide to Ukraine” against Russia.

The last American soldier left Kabul airport on August 31, 2021. The US-backed Afghan government had collapsed without much fight two weeks earlier, leaving the Taliban in control of the country – as they had been in 2001.

While the cost of 20 years of conflict has been estimated at more than $2 trillion, the United States has spent nearly $73 billion in 2021 dollars to train, equip, maintain, and supply defense forces and Afghan National Security Forces (ANDSF), most of which come from the Pentagon Budget. Most of the ANDSF’s weaponry and equipment ended up in the hands of the Taliban.

By comparison, the Russian Defense Ministry estimated earlier this week that total Western aid to Ukraine this year was more than $97 billion. The Pentagon alone has spent at least $20 billion on “safety help” in Ukraine since February 2022, by his own admission. Other US government departments, NATO and EU members made up the remainder.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky visited Washington in person on Wednesday, receiving a promise from Biden to fund Kyiv for “as long as it takes” and a $1.85 billion arms and ammunition package, including a battery of Patriot air defense missiles. Zelensky also addressed a special joint session of Congress, with a plea to approve an additional $45 billion in aid for 2023. The Senate did so the following day.

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