WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Antony Blinken pushed back Monday against harsh Republican criticism of his handling of the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying the Biden administration inherited a deal with the Taliban to end the war, but executed it. There are no plans to give
In a sometimes controversial hearing Monday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Blinken sought to blunt complaints from angry GOP lawmakers about the administration’s response to the swift collapse of the Afghan government, and in particular, Americans and others. State Department action to remove
Blinken, speaking of the White House, blamed the Trump administration for the situation that President Joe Biden inherited in Afghanistan. “We have inherited a deadline. We have not inherited a plan,” he said, adding that the administration had done the right thing in ending the 20-year war.
“We made the right decision in ending America’s longest-running war,” said Blinken, who will testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.
Republicans defended the withdrawal process as “a disaster” and a “disgrace”. And while some Democrats allowed that the operation could have been handled better, many used their questions to criticize former President Donald Trump.
Following the Taliban’s capture of Kabul on August 15, the State Department has come under heavy criticism from both sides for not taking adequate action and not acting swiftly enough to expel American citizens, legal residents and at-risk Afghans from the country. There has been criticism. To go there to be stranded, although Blinken could not provide an exact number. He said there are about 100 US citizens with about “several thousand” green card holders.
“It was a relentless disaster of epic proportions,” said Texas Representative Michael McCall, the committee’s top Republican. He said the sudden withdrawal, with some Americans and Afghans left behind, encouraged “the Taliban and other American opponents”. “I can summarize it in one word: betrayal.”
His GOP colleagues Steve Chabot of Ohio and Lee Zeldin of New York were even more blunt. “It’s a disgrace,” Chabot said. “It was grossly flawed and poorly executed,” Zeldin said. “I believe that sir, you should resign. That will be the leadership.”
The committee’s chair, New York Representative Gregory Meeks, urged his colleagues to keep politics away from their criticism. But he acknowledged there were problems. “Could things have been done differently? Exactly,” he said.
Republican Congressman Adam Kizinger of Illinois, who has been excommunicated by many in the GOP for his criticism of Trump, blamed both Trump and Biden for the situation. “The Trump administration failed in setup and the Biden administration failed in execution,” Kizinger said.
Blinken tried to calmly brush off allegations of non-preparation, noting that the Biden administration had inherited the US-Taliban peace deal from its predecessor, as well as granting visas to Afghans working for the US government. with a sluggish schedule.
Blinken, who publicly predicted in June that a full Taliban takeover would not happen “from Friday to Monday”, also tried to heed criticism of the prediction by noting that no one in the US government expected Was that the Afghan government would fall quickly as it did.
“Even the most pessimistic assessment did not predict that government forces in Kabul would fall, while US forces would remain,” Blinken said in prepared remarks issued prior to his appearance. He defended the evacuation effort, saying it was successful despite almost insurmountable odds.
“The evacuation by our diplomats, military and intelligence professionals was an extraordinary effort – under the most difficult circumstances imaginable,” he said. “Finally, we completed one of the largest airlifts in history, evacuating 124,000 people safely.”
But Republicans, in particular, are seeking answers as to why American citizens were abandoned by the military in the chaotic days and weeks before the military completed its withdrawal on Aug.
In a preview of GOP questions, the Republican National Committee earlier on Monday issued a statement with the banner headline “Fire Blinken,” demanding that it be described as a trial of failures.
After the hearing ended for more than five hours, the GOP committee doubled down on its demand.
“Today’s hearing makes Blinken’s failures and lies completely clear,” said RNC President Ronna McDaniel. “Biden has no choice but to fire Blinken, hold him accountable, and take responsibility for the disaster he created.”
It appears that some Republicans are spoiling for a fight with a generally ineffective Blinken. Florida Representative Brian Mast accused Blinken of lying when he denied that intelligence had been manipulated to support Biden’s desire to withdraw US troops. “I can’t believe a word you said,” he told Blinken.
In a rare display of anger, Blinken replied: “Simply put, what you said Congressman is wrong.”
Blinken is very close to Biden and his job as America’s top diplomat is almost certainly secure, but criticism of the administration’s handling of Afghanistan’s withdrawal is not limited to Republicans.
Many Democrats have also questioned the policy and expressed concern about stranded Americans, green card holders and Afghans who could face retaliation from the Taliban because of their work or ties with the US government over the past 20 years. .
State Department officials have acknowledged that the congressional hearing could be controversial and possibly ugly, but many are convinced that the US military and other officials did the best they could under extremely difficult circumstances – including the evacuation of the US embassy in Kabul and thousands Including crushing people. Desperate people at Kabul airport are demanding to leave the country.