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Secretary of State Anthony Blinken says closing Guantanamo is ‘goal’ for Biden administration

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said President Joe Biden’s administration is planning to close the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba but declined to offer a timeline in an interview aired Sunday. 

‘We believe that it should be [closed], that’s certainly a goal, but it’s something that we’ll bring some focus to in the months ahead,’ Blinken told 60 Minutes host Norah O’Donnell.

Biden has previously said he intends to shutter the prison at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base known as ‘Gitmo’, which currently houses 40 high profile criminals linked to the War on Terror. 

Blinken suggested that closure could be a long way off, in part because it would require approval from Congress to move some prisoners to the US for trial or imprisonment. 

Guantanamo was among several issues Blinken addressed in the 60 Minutes interview, including the Biden administration’s withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, which began formally on Saturday. 

Blinken reaffirmed Biden’s commitment to maintaining support for the Afghan government after the withdrawal while acknowledging the possibility of the situation there taking a bad turn.  

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday said President Joe Biden is planning to close the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba 'in the coming months'

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday said President Joe Biden is planning to close the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba ‘in the coming months’

Biden has previously said he intends to shutter the prison at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base known as ‘Gitmo’, which currently houses 40 high profile criminals (file photo)

‘Are you prepared for a worst case scenario in Afghanistan where the US-backed government fails, and the Taliban takes over?’ O’Donnell asked. 

Blinken said officials were watching the situation in ‘a very clear-eyed way’ and that they are ‘prepared for every scenario’.  

‘We’ve been engaged in Afghanistan for 20 years and we sometimes forget why we went there in the first place, and that was to deal with the people who attacked us on 9/11. And we did,’ he said. 

‘Just because our troops are coming home doesn’t mean we’re leaving. We’re not,’ he continued, saying that the American embassy would be staying and economic, development, and humanitarian support would continue from the US and our allies.’

Blinken’s comments came after Gen Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted that Afghan government forces face an uncertain future and, in a worst-case scenario, some ‘bad possible outcomes’ against Taliban insurgents as the withdrawal of American and coalition troops accelerates in the coming weeks. 

Milley described the Afghan military and police as ‘reasonably well equipped, reasonably well trained, reasonably well led’.

He cited Afghan troops’ years of experience against a resilient insurgency, but he declined to say they are fully ready to stand up to the Taliban without direct international backing during a potential Taliban offensive.

A veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Milley spoke in an interview with Associated Press and CNN reporters flying with him from Hawaii to Washington just hours after the formal kickoff of the withdrawal.

Asked whether he believes the Afghan forces can hold up under increased strain, Milley was noncommittal.

‘Your question: The Afghan army, do they stay together and remain a cohesive fighting force or do they fall apart? I think there’s a range of scenarios here, a range of outcomes, a range of possibilities,’ he said. 

‘On the one hand you get some really dramatic, bad possible outcomes. On the other hand, you get a military that stays together and a government that stays together.’

‘Which one of these options obtains and becomes reality at the end of the day? We frankly don’t know yet. We have to wait and see how things develop over the summer.’

Gen Mark Milley on Sunday admitted that Afghan government forces face an uncertain future and, in a worst-case scenario, some 'bad possible outcomes' against Taliban insurgents as the withdrawal of American and coalition troops accelerates in the coming weeks

Gen Mark Milley on Sunday admitted that Afghan government forces face an uncertain future and, in a worst-case scenario, some 'bad possible outcomes' against Taliban insurgents as the withdrawal of American and coalition troops accelerates in the coming weeks

Gen Mark Milley on Sunday admitted that Afghan government forces face an uncertain future and, in a worst-case scenario, some ‘bad possible outcomes’ against Taliban insurgents as the withdrawal of American and coalition troops accelerates in the coming weeks

Milley's comments came a day after the US formally passed control of Camp Antonik in the southern Helmand province to Afghan forces on Saturday (pictured)

Milley's comments came a day after the US formally passed control of Camp Antonik in the southern Helmand province to Afghan forces on Saturday (pictured)

Milley’s comments came a day after the US formally passed control of Camp Antonik in the southern Helmand province to Afghan forces on Saturday (pictured)

Milley said there is ‘at least still the possibility’ of a negotiated political settlement between the government in Kabul and the Taliban. This, he said, would avoid the ‘massive civil war’ that some fear could happen.

Within about two months of the US-led invasion in October 2001, the country’s Taliban rulers were removed from power and militarily defeated. But within several years, they had regrouped, rearmed and reasserted themselves, taking advantage of sanctuary in neighboring Pakistan. 

In recent years the Taliban achieved a battlefield stalemate with U.S.-supported Afghan government forces.

Milley noted that the Afghan military has operated in recent years with less reliance on US and coalition advisers. Among the key exceptions are special operations commandos and the defense ministry.

‘But for the most part, there’s no advisers out there anyway,’ he said in one of his few interviews since President Joe Biden announced April 14 that all US military personnel will withdraw this summer. 

Milley said the commonly cited total of 2,500 troops rises to 3,300 if special operations forces are counted. ‘We’re taking it down to zero,’ he said.

After the withdrawal is over, the United States will provide unspecified ‘capabilities’ to the Afghan military from other locations, Milley said. 

He did not elaborate on this, but other officials have said those ‘over-the-horizon’ arrangements for supporting the Afghan military have yet to be solidified.

Milley said it is possible that the withdrawal will be finished before the September 11 target date announced by the White House. He said that date reflects the estimated maximum amount of time needed to move all US and coalition troops, as well as large amounts of equipment, out of the country.

‘I don’t want to put precise dates on it,’ he said.

Blinken broached another major foreign relations issue facing the US in his 60 Minutes interview: An increasingly powerful China.  

‘What we’ve witnessed over the last several years is China acting more repressively at home and more aggressively abroad. That is a fact,’ the top American diplomat said. 

His comments came after Biden, in his first address to Congress on Wednesday, underscored that he was not seeking conflict with Beijing.

Biden said he told Chinese President Xi Jinping that in the competition to be the dominant power of the 21st century, ‘we welcome the competition — and that we are not looking for conflict’.

Blinken said China is ‘the one country in the world that has the military, economic, diplomatic capacity to undermine or challenge the rules-based order that we care so much about and are determined to defend.

‘But I want to be very clear about something… our purpose is not to contain China, to hold it back, to keep it down; it is to uphold this rules-based order that China is posing a challenge to.’

Tensions have risen sharply with China over the past few years as the United States also takes issue with Beijing’s assertive military moves and human rights concerns, including what Washington has described as genocide against the mostly Muslim Uyghur minority.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken says China is acting ‘more aggressively and repressively’

An increasingly powerful China is challenging the world order, acting ‘more repressively’ and ‘more aggressively’ as it flexes its influence, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview that aired Sunday.

Asked by CBS News’ 60 Minutes if Washington was heading toward a military confrontation with Beijing, Blinken said: ‘It’s profoundly against the interests of both China and the United States to, to get to that point, or even to head in that direction.

‘What we’ve witnessed over the last several years is China acting more repressively at home and more aggressively abroad. That is a fact.’ 

Asked about the reported theft of hundreds of billions of dollars or more in US trade secrets and intellectual property by China, Blinken said the Biden administration had ‘real concerns’ about the IP issue.

He said it sounded like the actions ‘of someone who’s trying to compete unfairly and increasingly in adversarial ways. But we’re much more effective and stronger when we’re bringing like-minded and similarly aggrieved countries together to say to Beijing: ‘This can’t stand and it won’t stand.’

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (far right) speaks as Chinese Communist Party foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi (left) and China's State Councilor Wang Yi (second from left) listen at the opening session of US-China talks in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 18

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (far right) speaks as Chinese Communist Party foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi (left) and China's State Councilor Wang Yi (second from left) listen at the opening session of US-China talks in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 18

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (far right) speaks as Chinese Communist Party foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi (left) and China’s State Councilor Wang Yi (second from left) listen at the opening session of US-China talks in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 18

The top American diplomat’s comments came after President Joe Biden, in his first address to Congress on Wednesday, underscored that he was not seeking conflict with Beijing.

Biden said he told Chinese President Xi Jinping that in the competition to be the dominant power of the 21st century, ‘we welcome the competition — and that we are not looking for conflict.’

Blinken said China is ‘the one country in the world that has the military, economic, diplomatic capacity to undermine or challenge the rules-based order that we care so much about and are determined to defend.

‘But I want to be very clear about something… our purpose is not to contain China, to hold it back, to keep it down; it is to uphold this rules-based order that China is posing a challenge to.’

Tensions have risen sharply with China over the past few years as the United States also takes issue with Beijing’s assertive military moves and human rights concerns, including what Washington has described as genocide against the mostly Muslim Uyghur minority.

Reporting by AFP and Reuters


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bourbiza

Bourbiza Mohamed. Writer and Political Discourse Analysis.

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