Secretary of State Antony Blinken vowed Sunday that the US will “take action” if ISIS-K “poses a threat to Americans,” claiming that the US will continue to have the ability to attack targets in Afghanistan without boots on the ground there.
Asked to define the the Joe Biden administration’s “mission” against the terrorist group, Blinken said the military will be prepared to retaliate should the terrorists attack Americans or its allies outside Afghanistan.
“If we see anyone who poses a threat to our citizens in the first instance here, and especially if it turns into any kind of outwardly directed threat, which so far is not the case — ISIS-K is focused on Afghanistan itself — we will take action,” Blinken said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“We are, first of all, going to be extremely vigilant about any emergence or re-emergence of a threat that’s directed from Afghanistan toward the United States, toward any of our allies and partners,” he added. “And we’re going to make sure that we have the capacity to deal with it.”
Blinken, when asked by host Chuck Todd about the US’ ability to strike ISIS once the full withdrawal of American troops and diplomatic personnel from Afghanistan takes effect Sept. 1, noted that “we have the capacity to go after people” in countries without sustained American military occupation.
“We have the capacity around the world, including in Afghanistan … to find and to take strikes against terrorists who want to do us harm,” he said.
“And as you know, in country after country, including places like Yemen, like Somalia, large parts of Syria, Libya — places where we don’t have boots on the ground on any kind of ongoing basis, we have the capacity to go after people who are trying to do us harm,” he went on. “We’ll retain that capacity in Afghanistan.”
Also Sunday, Blinken said it’s “not likely” America will have an “on-the-ground diplomatic presence after Sept 1, when the military personnel are fully pulled out of the war-torn country.
“In terms of having an on-the-ground diplomatic presence on Sept. 1, that’s not likely to happen,” he said on NBC.
His answer comes after the Washington Post reported Saturday that the US is planning to remove all diplomatic staff in Afghanistan by Tuesday.
Still, Blinken insisted America will be able to aid those in Afghanistan seeking to flee the country.
“But what is going to happen is that our commitment to continue to help people leave Afghanistan who want to leave and who are not out by Sept. 1, that endures,” he said.
“There’s no deadline on that effort. And we have ways, we have mechanisms, to help facilitate the ongoing departure of people from Afghanistan if they choose to leave.”