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Ex-general says Afghanistan pullout puts US ‘back where we started’ 20 years ago

A year after President Biden’s chaotic and disastrous military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the US finds itself “back where we started” two decades ago when al Qaeda carried out the 9/11 attacks, a retired four-star general said Sunday.

Gen. Jack Keane called the current situation in Afghanistan “tragic” and “preventable,” and said the Taliban has ​consolidated its oppressive rule and continues to shield terrorists following America’s exit from the war-torn country.

“The fact is Afghanistan is a sanctuary for terrorism. 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,” Keane said on “Fox News Sunday.”

US and allied troops in Afghanistan kept the Taliban at bay, Gen. Jack Keane claimed.
Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
Taliban fighters armed with American weapons.
Gen. Jack Keane says the Taliban are “shutting down all the normal cultural aspirations that a nation or people would have​.”
Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

“The Taliban have returned to their draconian rule in the 1990s, denying people individual rights,” he said.

“​Women cannot work, they can’t go to school. They are controlling all of the culture, dress, no music in the country,” Keane said of the militant group. “They’re just shutting down all the normal cultural aspirations that a nation or people would have​.”

The former Army general said the US went to war in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks to prevent the Taliban from returning to power and giving terror groups like al Qaeda a safe haven to plot against America and its allies. 

“​And what did this decision get us? It got us the Taliban in charge again providing sanctuary to the Taliban — I mean, providing sanctuary to al Qaeda​,” he said. ​

Keane said the killing earlier this month of A​yman al-Zawahiri — who took over running the terror group after Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan in 2011 — as he stood on the balcony of his home in the capital of Kabul shows that the Taliban is still providing the group shelter.

“Al-Zawahiri’s killing resurrected the fact that he is 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. And to date, we’ve done nothing against that organization and done nothing against ISIS,” Keane said.​

The sheer existence of US and allied troops in Afghanistan kept the Taliban at bay and prevented the fundamentalist group from taking over the government as it did after Biden’s withdrawal, he said.

The US military presence also ​kept al Qaeda from gaining a foothold in the country and gaining strength. 

“​The president thought he knew better. And he was very defiant and rejected all of their advice. And then he presented a false narrative to the American people to 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 tha​t,” Keane said.​

That decision led to the deaths of 13 US service members, killed in a suicide bombing outside the Kabul airport, and the ​abandonment of thousands of Afghanis who assisted America in its 20 year war in Afghanistan. ​

“We’re talking about an emergency evacuation that could have been prevented by the president’s decision if he had made – if he took the advice of his counsels and advisors. And certainly, it was very tragic that we lost those soldiers going out,” Keane said.

“We have left 80,000 people behind who still want to get out who we recognize as being partners of the United States, and they overshadow this thing certainly.”

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