Blinken defends Afghan withdrawal at testy U.S. congressional hearing

U.S. Secretary of Condition Antony Blinken gives remarks in the course of a 9/11 commemoration

U.S. Secretary of Condition Antony Blinken gives remarks in the course of a 9/11 commemoration occasion to mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 assaults, at the Point out Section in Washington, U.S., September 10, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool

September 14, 2021

By Patricia Zengerle and Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Secretary of Condition Antony Blinken conquer again criticism of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan on Monday at a contentious congressional hearing where by at the very least two Republicans called on him to resign.

In 5 several hours of typically testy exchanges with lawmakers, Blinken defended President Joe Biden’s conclusion to pull out and pushed again on accusations that the Condition Office need to have performed a lot more to enable Americans and at-chance Afghans to be evacuated, blaming the previous administration for lacking a plan.

He regularly pointed out that Republican previous President Donald Trump had negotiated the withdrawal arrangement with the Taliban, and stated Biden’s administration could not renegotiate since of threats from the group to resume killing Us citizens.

“There’s no evidence that keeping for a longer period would have manufactured the Afghan security forces or the Afghan federal government any far more resilient or self-sustaining,” Blinken explained.

“We inherited a deadline. We did not inherit a strategy,” Blinken claimed, referring to the Trump administration’s settlement to clear away all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by May 1.

Members of Congress – Biden’s Democrats as perfectly as opposition Republicans – have pledged to examine since the Taliban seized regulate of Afghanistan previous month just after a swift progress.

Blinken appeared on Monday before the Home of Representatives International Affairs Committee and was to testify on Tuesday in advance of the Senate Overseas Relations Committee, the to start with Biden administration formal to testify publicly to lawmakers considering that the Islamist militant group’s takeover.

Fireworks experienced been envisioned, offered the volume of finger-pointing in excess of how the two-10 years-extended war ended. Numerous Republicans, especially people closely allied to Trump, interrupted or even shouted above Blinken all through the Home hearing, a departure for a committee recognized for bipartisan cooperation.

Others provided harsh criticism.

“The American people do not like to lose, in particular not to the terrorists. But this is precisely what has took place,” stated Representative Michael McCaul, the panel’s prime Republican.

McCaul questioned why property like the Bagram Air Base had been not preserved and why the administration had not arrived at counterterrorism agreements with neighboring international locations.

“This is a national safety risk as China moves in. For all I know they make get above Bagram,” McCaul claimed.

Blinken claimed the United States was actively functioning to determine threats.

Quite a few Queries

Lawmakers asked a extensive checklist of thoughts about the fast collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan governing administration and scramble to evacuate 124,000 persons.

Democrats expressed issue about Us citizens and at-hazard Afghans who however wish to go away, but backed the withdrawal as required, if unpleasant. “I would welcome listening to what exactly a sleek withdrawal from a messy chaotic 20-12 months war appears to be like,” said Consultant Gregory Meeks, the committee’s chairman.

Blinken praised the evacuation as “a heroic exertion.” He pledged that the United States will go on to help humanitarian assist to Afghanistan, but through non-governmental corporations and U.N. businesses, not the Taliban.

Afghanistan is at possibility of functioning out of meals as it faces a terrible drought in addition to political upheaval. “We have to have to do every little thing we can to make sure the men and women of Afghanistan don’t experience any additional than is now the scenario,” Blinken mentioned.

He said he experienced not spoken personally to members of the Taliban management. “Any legitimacy that they may well request from the international neighborhood … is heading to be contingent on their actions,” he explained.

Blinken mentioned he would identify a senior Condition Section formal to emphasis on aid for Afghan women, women and minorities.

Republicans grilled Blinken about what took place at Kabul’s airport throughout the evacuation forward of the administration’s Aug. 31 deadline to go away. Thirteen U.S. troops and dozens of Afghans had been killed in a suicide bombing amid the chaos.

Democrats claimed they wanted to tackle not just the seven months Biden was president prior to Kabul fell but all 20 yrs of U.S. involvement in the country – under presidents from both of those events.

A U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban in 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks masterminded by al Qaeda leaders centered in Afghanistan.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Humeyra Pamuk and Doina Chiacu, additional reporting by Idrees Ali Enhancing by Peter Cooney, Alistair Bell and Sonya Hepinstall)