Biden’s claim of Afghan army size discredited by Newsnight host
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The US President said US intervention in Afghanistan was always aimed at “preventing a terrorist attack on American homeland” and was “never supposed to be creating a unified centralised democracy”. The comments were branded “arguable” by the EU foreign policy chief who said the aim of NATO nations’ cooperation in the region was to build a new state in Afghanistan.
He blasted: “We have been doing a lot in order to build a state in Afghanistan, a state that could guarantee the rule of law and the respect for rule of law and fundamental freedoms.
“What has happened raises many questions about the West’s 20-year engagement in the country and what we were able to achieve.”
Mr Borrell also accused the US administration of spending millions of dollars in the country with “very modest results”.
Speaking to MEPs in the European Parliament, he urged caution over the possibility of a national unity government between the Taliban and the former Afghanistan government.
He said: “Allow me to be sceptical about this possibility.
“The Taliban are presenting a nice face (…) But frankly speaking, we have to be extremely cautious.”
The criticism was echoed by many in the EU who were already concerned about Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and allow the country to collapse.
MEP Nathalie Loiseau, who chairs the Parliament’s Development Committee, said: “We also thought America was back, but America is withdrawing.
“We thought NATO was able to do nation-building, and that was a great illusion.”
More than 18,000 people have been flown out of Kabul since the Taliban took over Afghanistan’s capital, a NATO official said on Friday, pledging to redouble evacuation efforts as criticism of the West’s handling of the crisis mounted.
Thousands of people, desperate to flee the country, were still surrounding the airport, the official who declined to be identified told Reuters, even though the Taliban have urged people without legal travel documents to go home.
The speed with which the Taliban conquered Afghanistan as the US and other foreign troops were completing their withdrawal surprised even their own leaders and has left power vacuums in many places.
The Taliban urged unity ahead of Friday prayers, the first since they seized power, calling on imams to persuade people not to leave Afghanistan amid the chaos at the airport, protests and reports of violence.
A witness told Reuters several people were killed in the eastern city of Asadabad on Thursday when Taliban militants fired on a crowd demonstrating their allegiance to the vanquished Afghan republic, as the Taliban set about establishing an emirate, governed by strict Islamic laws.
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There were similar shows of defiance in two other cities – Jalalabad and Khost – in the east, as Afghans used celebrations of the nation’s 1919 independence from British control to vent their anger with the Taliban takeover.
Another witness reported gunshots near a rally in Kabul, but they appeared to be Taliban firing into the air.
Kabul has been largely calm, except in and around the airport where 12 people have been killed since Sunday, NATO and Taliban officials said.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in an interview with NBC News that the United States was “laser-focused” on “the potential for a terrorist attack” by a group such as Islamic State during the evacuation.
Criticism of NATO and other Western powers has mounted as images of the chaos and desperation are shared around the world.
President Biden is set to speak about the evacuation efforts at 1pm (1700 GMT) on Friday, having faced a torrent of criticism for his handling of the troop withdrawal, negotiated by the previous US administration.
Media in Britain reported its spy chiefs may face a grilling over intelligence failings. Several British officials remained on holiday as the Afghan debacle erupted, and Foreign Minister Dominic Raab has been heavily criticised for his initial response to the unfolding crisis.
The governments of Germany and Australia have also faced calls to do more and speed up the evacuation of citizens and vulnerable Afghans.
On Thursday, G7 foreign ministers called for a united international response to prevent the crisis from worsening, in comments echoed by countries including Russia.
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