Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday made an unwavering defense of the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, insisting it was “time to end America’s longest war” and the evacuation from Kabul as “extraordinary”. I praised.
why it matters: Blinken, who is appearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday and the Senate Foreign Relations on Tuesday, is the first senior Biden official to testify on Afghanistan in the wake of the chaotic return. He is expected to face the toughest grilling of his career.
big picture: Blinken has been the target of sharp criticism by Republicans, many of whom have called for his resignation. A pair of top Republicans used their opening statements to accuse the Biden administration of “betrayal” and “probably the worst foreign affairs disaster in American history.”
- Expect GOP lawmakers to ask Blinken how many Americans and allies are trapped in Afghanistan, how the US is investigating Afghan refugees, whether the US will recognize the Taliban government, and the US counter-terrorism in Afghanistan’s uniquely difficult circumstances. How will
- Democrats are less united when it comes to defending Biden’s return, but sources say lawmakers will use the hearing to prevent Republicans from placing 20 years of mistakes in Afghanistan at the feet of a president.
What are they saying… In his opening statement, Blinken echoed the same key arguments that Biden and his top national security officials have made in the weeks since Afghanistan fell into the hands of the Taliban:
- Biden inherited a peace deal from the Trump administration that forced him to withdraw or risk the Taliban resuming attacks on US forces, possibly necessitating another military escalation.
- There is “no evidence” that the outcome of a longer stay would have been different, as 20 years and billions in US funding failed to prevent the collapse of Afghan security forces.
- “Even the most pessimistic” intelligence assessment did not predict the fall of the Afghan government in 11 days, but the administration nonetheless planned “a wide range of contingencies”.
- The special immigrant visa program faced a massive backlog nine months ago.
- The US eventually evacuated 124,000 people, facing “the most difficult conditions imaginable” while completing “one of the largest airlifts in history”.
What will happen next: Blinken said the State Department continues to help evacuate Americans and Afghans who aided in US military efforts, supports humanitarian aid to Afghanistan through independent organizations, and holds the Taliban accountable for counter-terrorism commitments. Is.
This story is developing. Please check back for updates.