WASHINGTON (REUTERS, AFP) - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN on Sunday (Aug 15) that it was not in the interests of the United States to remain in Afghanistan, as Taleban insurgents entered the capital Kabul.
Mr Blinken said Washington had invested billions of dollars over four US administrations in Afghan government forces, giving them advantages over the Taleban, but they have failed to beat back the Taleban's advance.
"The fact of the matter is we've seen that force has been unable to defend the country," he said. "And that has happened more quickly than we anticipated."
US embassy staff in Kabul were being moved on Sunday to the airport as Taleban forces advanced on the Afghan capital, Mr Blinken added.
The Taleban were on the brink of total victory, with their fighters ordered to wait on the outskirts of Kabul and the government conceding it was preparing for a "transfer of power".
"It's why we had forces on hand to make sure we could do this in a safe and orderly fashion. The compound itself, folks are leaving there and going to the airport," Mr Blinken told ABC.
Despite the precipitous move, he rejected comparisons with the chaotic American departure from Saigon in 1975 as the Vietnam War drew to a close.
"This is not Saigon," he said. "The fact of the matter is this: We went to Afghanistan 20 years ago with one mission in mind. That was to deal with the people that attacked us on 9/11. That mission has been successful."
The Taleban's militants surrounded Kabul following an astonishingly quick rout of government forces, who proved incapable of holding on to territory without US military support.
The fall of Kabul will see the hardline group take back power two decades after US-led forces toppled it in the wake of the Sept 11, 2001, attacks.