US withdrawal ‘too hasty’ says John Howard as Taliban enforce takeover

Fromer Prime Minister John Howard has defended Australia's intervention in Afghanistan after the country's devastating collapse to Taliban rule at the weekend, 20 years after the US-led invasion.

Mr Howard, who sent troops to the Middle East to support the US campaign, told the ABC's 7.30 there was an "overwhelming belief" in 2001 that Western intervention in Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks was the right course of action.

"There is no evidence of a major terrorist attack that's been orchestrated out of Afghanistan (since the invasion)," Mr Howard said.

READ MORE: US ready to help Australia evacuate citizens from Kabul

Mr Howard said he could "understand the argument" that the war had been a failure.

"There are undoubtedly elements of Al Qaeda still in Afghanistan. And the Taliban … which, on occasions, is completely indistinguishable from Al Qaeda, is a very potent force," he said.

"But the truth is that the great fear of the United States and Australia and the West after September 11 — that there would be other attacks orchestrated out of Afghanistan — that has not materialised.

"So on that criterion, the mission, whatever may be said of it, has not been a failure."

John Howard

Mr Howard told 7.30 that he thought the US could have managed its withdrawal better.

"I've got some views about how that should never have been allowed to occur," he said of the rapid fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban.

"I think the Americans were too hasty in winding down to zero their military involvement in Afghanistan. I think it could have been possible to have had a more orderly withdrawal."

Mr Howard said Afghanistan had always been "in the words of some people", a "failed state".

Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country

READ MORE: First flight in Australia's Afghanistan rescue evacuates 26 people

The US Presidential administration of Joe Biden has said it will work in Australia to facilitate evacuations.

"We will be eager to work with Australia to help get out Australian citizens and other individuals who the Australians would like to see get out," National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said.

There are 130 Australian citizens and more than 200 former embassy guards and interpreters in the country.

The first 26 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan after the Taliban captured the country.

READ MORE: Former soldier's Afghanistan warning: 'Biggest hostage crisis' for decades

More than 250 Australian Defence Force troops are being sent to Afghanistan to help with evacuations but are stranded in Dubai until they can enter Kabul after the recent unrest at the airport.

Mr Sullivan said US officials had been in contact with the Taliban to ensure the safe passage of citizens to Kabul airport.

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