Monday, September 27, 2021

Blinken under further investigation over US withdrawal from Afghanistan

WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is facing another round of tough questioning from lawmakers over the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan last month during his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.

During a five-hour appearance via videoconference before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday, Blinken defended the Biden administration’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan after 20 years, never wavering in the face of harsh and angry questions from few lawmakers. No.

The country’s top diplomat told the panel that if US President Joe Biden had decided to escalate the war, “it would have required sending significantly more US forces into Afghanistan to defend itself and prevent a Taliban takeover, with casualties.” number of – and with the best likelihood of restoring a standoff and remaining trapped in Afghanistan, under fire, indefinitely.”

“There is no evidence that a longer stay would have made the Afghan security forces or the Afghan government more resilient or self-reliant,” he said. “If 20 years and hundreds of billions of dollars in support, equipment and training weren’t enough, why would another year, or five, or 10, matter?”

Taliban insurgents took over the country in mid-August as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled to exile in the United Arab Emirates. The United States evacuated 124,000 people from Kabul airport in the last days of August, most of whom were Afghans, along with about 5,500 Americans, leaving behind about 100 Americans.

An aircraft with the flag of Afghanistan is seen flying over the pillars in front of the Taliban flag at the airport in Kabul on September 11, 2021.

Some Americans have since been able to exit the country by land or via a handful of flights, with the Taliban’s approval. But Blinken said that as of the end of last week, there are still about 100 Americans left.

Blinken said US officials had not predicted the Afghan government’s collapse so quickly, even as the Taliban advanced across the country.

“Even the most pessimistic assessment did not predict that government forces in Kabul would fall, while US forces would remain,” he said.

Although the main evacuation has ended, the top US diplomat said, “We are continuing our tireless efforts to help any remaining Americans, as well as Afghans and citizens of allied and allied countries, leave Afghanistan if they wish.” Give.”

“As we have done throughout our history, Americans are now welcoming families from Afghanistan into our communities and helping them start their new lives,” Blinken said. “It’s also something to be proud of.”

Opposition Republican lawmakers and some of Biden’s Democratic allies have criticized the president’s way of returning soldiers, American citizens and thousands of Afghans who served as interpreters and advisers to the US military during the war.

Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York, the chairman of the House committee, said “separation from Afghanistan was never going to be easy.”

But he said, “this war should have ended 19 years ago,” when the United States successfully ousted the Taliban from power and occupied training grounds for al-Qaeda terrorists who invaded America in 2001. attacked, in which about 3,000 people were killed.

Texas Congressman Michael McCaul, the Republican leading the House panel, characterized the US withdrawal from Afghanistan as “a continuing disaster of epic proportions” and “a betrayal” and noted that many interim officials controlling Afghanistan had once been the United States. There were terrorists in Guantanamo. Bay Detention Center in Cuba.

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Republican Congressman Steve Chabot of Ohio said Afghanistan was “once again a haven for terrorists”.

“Yes, most Americans wanted to leave Afghanistan, but not that way,” Chabot said, adding that the administration’s action was “outrageous.”

Joe Wilson of South Carolina was one of a handful of Republicans who called for Blinken’s resignation. Another Republican member of the panel, Brian Mast of Florida, even accused Blinken of lying when he alleged that the administration had manipulated intelligence, which Blinken vehemently denied.

A Democratic congressman, Brad Sherman of California, blamed former President Donald Trump last year for agreeing a May 1, 2021, deadline to end US military involvement in Afghanistan without adequate planning. Sherman asked Blinken if the previous US administration had omitted details on how to execute the withdrawal.

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“We inherited a deadline,” Blinken replied. “We haven’t inherited any plans” for evacuation.

Republican Congressman Adam Kizinger of Illinois blamed both Trump and Biden for the chaotic return. “The Trump administration failed in setup and the Biden administration failed in execution,” Kizinger said.

Biden’s return was particularly criticized after 13 US service members were killed in a suicide bombing at Kabul airport days after the exit. Islamic State-Khorasan, an Afghan branch of the terrorist group operating in the Middle East, claimed responsibility.

A national poll of US voters shows widespread support for Biden’s decision to end the “forever war” in Afghanistan, but not the way the comeback has unfolded.

In the two days of testimony, Blinken is likely to be asked why the United States did not begin evacuating American citizens as soon as possible, especially since Biden had called for an end to Trump’s war with the Taliban in April and US forces. announced its intention to honor the agreement to withdraw.

Lawmakers have also hit out at US intelligence-gathering for failing to predict a swift takeover by the Taliban and the fall of the Afghan government.

Republicans say they want to focus their question on Biden’s performance in the final weeks and days of the war, while Democrats are hoping to investigate the entire US war effort carried out under four presidents – Republican George W. . Bush and Trump, and Democrats Barack Obama and Biden.

Bush began the war in late 2001 to wipe out the al-Qaeda terrorist training grounds where the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States took place, with al-Qaeda terrorists flying American passenger planes to New York skyscrapers and Commanded to crash outside the Pentagon. Washington. Last Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of the attacks.

Biden called the withdrawal an “extraordinary success” and defended the decision to end the war in Afghanistan, saying he would not hand over the management of US military involvement there to the fifth US leader.

Some information for this report has been obtained from The Associated Press.

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Blinken under further investigation over US withdrawal from Afghanistan
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