The much-criticized, hectic withdrawal from Afghanistan helped Washington redirect resources to Ukraine just months later, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken admitted on Thursday during his year-end press conference.
Just two weeks after the US-backed Afghan government had collapsed without much of a fight, leaving the Taliban in control of the country like in 2001, the last US soldier departed from the Kabul airport on August 31, 2021.
While Blinken was trying to paint a rosy picture of Washington’s diplomatic accomplishments, one reporter took issue with his claim of strong relationships with US “allies and partners,” which has brought up the exit from Afghanistan.
Although she was actually asking about the lessons learned from that withdrawal in dealing with Russia and China, Blinken proceeded to argue that the US presence in Afghanistan would have made much more difficult the aid and support it gives Ukraine against Russia.
Without exit from Kabul and the war in Afghanistan, which he called “America’s longest war,” Secretary of State Blinken said that aiding Kyiv would’ve been much more complicated.
Last year, the US spent almost $73 billion in 2021 dollars on training, equipping, maintaining, and supplying the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) – most of it from the Pentagon budget – while the cost of the 20-year conflict has been estimated at over $2 trillion.
The bulk of ANDSF weaponry and equipment, however, ended up in Taliban hands.
By its own admission, since February 2022 the Pentagon alone has spent at least $20 billion in direct “security assistance” to Ukraine while other US government departments, NATO, and EU members accounted for the rest of the aid.
President Biden has personally pledged to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, who visited Washington in person on Wednesday, to fund Kyiv for as long as it takes. He also pledged a $1.85 billion packet of weapons and ammunition – including a battery of Patriot air defense missiles.
While addressing a special joint session of Congress, Zelensky pleaded for another $45 billion in aid for 2023, which the Senate did the following day.