Top Democrat threatens to subpoena Biden officials as Blinken testifies on Afghanistan

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, where he will face a second day of questioning from Republican lawmakers who highly criticize the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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running news: The chairman of the committee, hawkish New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez, drew no punches in his opening statement, threatening Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other Biden officials who refuse to voluntarily appear before the committee.

  • “Mister Secretary, the execution of the American withdrawal was clearly and fatally flawed,” Menendez told Blinken.
  • Menendez promised accountability for several administrations who “lyed” about the stability of the Afghan government, and said Austin’s refusal to testify “will affect my personal judgment on Defense Department nominees.”

salient feature: Blinken testified that the administration began planning a “worst-case scenario” in Afghanistan in the spring and summer, including the contingency to evacuate the US embassy in Kabul in 48 hours and establish control of the airport.

  • The secretary refused to give the committee a copy of the July 13 State Department dissent cable It warned of the imminent collapse of the Afghan government soon after the US withdrawal, saying it was “designed by its very own rules that can only be shared with senior officials in the department.”
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big picture: In more than five hours of testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday, Blinken calmly defended almost every aspect of the withdrawal and evacuation effort — refusing to believe it could have been handled differently, even though He faced intense criticism and called on the fiercest Republicans to resign. .

Catch up soon: “We inherited a deadline. We didn’t inherit a plan,” Blinken told committee members, repeatedly accusing former President Trump of forcing the Biden administration’s hand in a peace deal with the Taliban. Put it.

  • He praised Biden’s decision to end the war in Afghanistan as righteous and the evacuation effort “extraordinary,” while acknowledging that nearly 100 American citizens and possibly “thousands” of green card holders live in the country.
  • Blinken also disputed Republican claims that Biden ignored or “manipulated” intelligence about the pending collapse of the Afghan government, insisting that the administration performed as well as no one had predicted. .
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what to watch: Democrats, with Menendez as a notable exception, are largely expected to defend the return and back down against GOP efforts to pin 20 years of bipartisan wrongs in Afghanistan on Biden.

  • Meanwhile, the Republican senator will question Blinken on the administration’s stance towards the Taliban and demand to know how he will expel the remaining US citizens and green card holders from Afghanistan.
  • Republicans are also expected to pressure the secretary on the challenges posed by Biden’s “above the horizon” counter-terrorism strategy, but Blinken was reluctant to discuss those issues in an unclassified setting during his House testimony.

During this: General Austin Scott Miller, the former commander of the US military in Afghanistan, will testify behind closed doors in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee at 3:30 p.m. ET.

go in: Highlights of Blinken’s Appearance Before the House

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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