US Secretary Of State Antony Blinken Defends Afghan Withdrawal And Blames Trump Administration Taliban Agreement
At a contentious congressional hearing, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pushed back against criticism of the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, as at least one Republican called for his resignation.
Mr. Blinken supported President Joe Biden’s choice to withdraw and pushed back on claims that the State Department should have done more to assist Americans and at-risk Afghans in being evacuated, blaming the previous administration for not having a plan.
He consistently stated that the withdrawal agreement with the Taliban was reached by Republican former President Donald Trump and that President Joe Biden’s administration did not consider renegotiating because the group threatened to resume killing Americans.
Mr. Blinken said, “There’s no evidence that staying longer would have made the Afghan security forces or the Afghan government any more resilient or self-sustaining.”
“We inherited a deadline. We did not inherit a plan,” Mr. Blinken said, referring to the Trump administration’s agreement to remove all US forces from Afghanistan by May 1.
Since the Taliban seized control of the country last month after a quick advance, members of Congress, both Mr. Biden’s fellow Democrats as well as opposition Republicans, have scheduled hearings.
Mr. Blinken testified before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday and was scheduled to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, the first Biden administration official to testify in front of politicians since the Islamist militant group’s takeover.
Given the amount of finger-pointing over how the two-decade-long US presence in the country ended, fireworks were predicted. Republicans were outspoken in harsh criticism.
Representative Michael McCaul, the panel’s top Republican said, “The American people don’t like to lose, especially not to the terrorists. But this is exactly what has happened.”
Mr. McCaul questioned why assets such as the Bagram Air Base were not maintained and why the administration had not secured agreements with neighboring countries on surveillance and counterterrorism.
Mr. McCaul said, “This is a national security threat as China moves in. For all I know they make take over Bagram.”
Mr. Blinken said the United States was actively working to identify the threats.
Members of Congress questioned Biden about the US-backed Afghan government’s quick collapse and the administration’s rush to evacuate 124,000 people, including Americans and at-risk Afghans.
Democrats expressed concern about Americans and at-risk Afghans who want to leave Afghanistan, but defended the departure as inevitable, if painful, after two decades.
Representative Gregory Meeks, the committee’s chairman said, “I would welcome hearing what exactly a smooth withdrawal from a messy chaotic 20-year war looks like.”
Mr. Blinken praised the diplomatic, military, and intelligence officers for their heroic work in the evacuation.
He stated that the US would continue to assist Afghanistan with humanitarian aid, but through non-governmental organizations and UN agencies rather than the Taliban.
Afghanistan is on the verge of running out of food due to a severe drought and political disturbance.
“We need to do everything we can to make sure the people of Afghanistan don’t suffer any more than is already the case,” said Mr. Blinken.
He said he will choose a senior State Department official to focus only on the campaign to support Afghan women, girls, and minorities.
He claimed that about 100 Americans were still in Afghanistan at the end of last week and wanted to depart.
Republicans interrogated Mr. Blinken about what happened at Kabul’s airport during the evacuation ahead of the administration’s August 31 deadline to leave.
Thirteen US troops and dozens of Afghans were killed in a suicide bombing amid the chaos.
As per ABC News, democrats had requested that the hearing include not just Mr. Biden’s seven months as President before the Taliban conquered Kabul, but all 20 years of US participation in the country under presidents from both parties.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, which were masterminded by Al Qaeda leaders based in Afghanistan, a US-led invasion toppled the Taliban in 2001.