US Secretary of State Antony Blinken beat again criticism of the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan on Monday at a contentious congressional listening to the place a minimum of two Republicans referred to as on him to resign.
In 5 hours of usually testy exchanges with lawmakers, Blinken defended President Joe Biden’s decision to pull out and pushed again on accusations that the State Division ought to have executed extra to assist People and at-risk Afghans to be evacuated, blaming the earlier administration for missing a plan. He repeatedly famous that Republican former President Donald Trump had negotiated the withdrawal settlement with the Taliban, and mentioned Biden’s administration couldn’t renegotiate due to threats from the group to renew killing People.
“There’s no proof that staying longer would have made the Afghan safety forces or the Afghan authorities any extra resilient or self-sustaining,” Blinken mentioned. “We inherited a deadline. We didn’t inherit a plan,” Blinken mentioned, referring to the Trump administration’s settlement to take away all US forces from Afghanistan by Might 1.
Members of Congress – Biden’s Democrats in addition to opposition Republicans – have pledged to analyze for the reason that Taliban seized control of Afghanistan final month after a speedy advance.
Blinken appeared on Monday earlier than the Home of Representatives Overseas Affairs Committee and was to testify on Tuesday earlier than the Senate Overseas Relations Committee, the primary Biden administration official to testify publicly to lawmakers for the reason that Islamist militant group’s takeover.
Fireworks had been anticipated, given the quantity of finger-pointing over how the two-decade-long struggle ended. Many Republicans, significantly these carefully allied to Trump, interrupted and even shouted over Blinken in the course of the Home listening to, a departure for a committee identified for bipartisan cooperation. Others provided harsh criticism.
“The American folks don’t wish to lose, particularly to not the terrorists. However that is precisely what has occurred,” mentioned Consultant Michael McCaul, the panel’s high Republican. McCaul requested why belongings just like the Bagram Air Base weren’t maintained and why the administration had not reached counterterrorism agreements with neighboring international locations.
“It is a nationwide safety risk as China strikes in. For all I do know they make take over Bagram,” McCaul mentioned. Blinken mentioned america was actively working to determine threats.
Lawmakers requested an extended checklist of questions in regards to the speedy collapse of the US-backed Afghan authorities and scramble to evacuate 124,000 folks. Democrats expressed concern about People and at-risk Afghans who nonetheless want to depart, however backed the withdrawal as obligatory, if painful.
“I might welcome listening to what precisely a clean withdrawal from a messy chaotic 20-year struggle appears to be like like,” mentioned Consultant Gregory Meeks, the committee’s chairman.
Blinken praised the evacuation as “a heroic effort.” He pledged that america will proceed to assist humanitarian support to Afghanistan, however by means of non-governmental organisations and UN companies, not the Taliban.
Afghanistan is liable to working out of meals because it faces a horrible drought along with political upheaval. “We have to do all the pieces we will to ensure the folks of Afghanistan don’t undergo any greater than is already the case,” Blinken mentioned.
He mentioned he had not spoken personally to members of the Taliban management. “Any legitimacy that they could search from the worldwide group … goes to be contingent on their actions,” he mentioned. Blinken mentioned he would identify a senior State Division official to concentrate on assist for Afghan girls, women and minorities.
Republicans grilled Blinken about what occurred at Kabul’s airport in the course of the evacuation forward of the administration’s Aug. 31 deadline to depart. 13 US troops and dozens of Afghans have been killed in a suicide bombing amid the chaos.
Democrats mentioned they wished to handle not simply the seven months Biden was president earlier than Kabul fell however all 20 years of US involvement within the nation – beneath presidents from each events. A US-led invasion toppled the Taliban in 2001 after the Sept. 11 assaults masterminded by al Qaeda leaders based mostly in Afghanistan.