Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Blinken Pushes Back on GOP Criticism of Afghan Withdrawal
gvw_ap_news
By Associated Press
Published 3 years ago on
September 15, 2021

Share

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken pushed back Monday against harsh Republican criticism of the handling of the military withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying the Biden administration inherited a deal with the Taliban to end the war, but no plan for carrying it out.

In a sometimes contentious hearing Monday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Blinken sought to blunt complaints from angry GOP lawmakers about the administration’s response to the quick collapse of the Afghan government and, more specifically, the State Department’s actions to evacuate Americans and others.

Blinken echoed White House talking points blaming the Trump administration for the situation that President Joe Biden inherited in Afghanistan. “We inherited a deadline. We did not inherit a plan,” he said, maintaining that the administration had done the right thing in ending 20 years of war.

“We made the right decision in ending America’s longest-running war,” said Blinken, who will testify on Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Republicans Criticize Biden Administration’s Handling of Afghanistan

Republicans savaged the withdrawal process as “a disaster” and “a disgrace.” And while some Democrats allowed that the operation could have been handled better, many used their questions to heap criticism on former President Donald Trump.

The State Department has come under heavy criticism from both sides for not doing enough and not acting quickly enough to get American citizens, legal residents and at-risk Afghans out of the country after the Taliban took control of Kabul on Aug. 15. Some seeking to leave remain stranded there, although Blinken could not provide an exact number. He said roughly 100 U.S. citizens remain along with about “several thousand” green card holders.

“This was an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions,” said Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the committee. He said the abrupt withdrawal along with leaving some Americans and Afghans behind had “emboldened the Taliban” and other U.S. adversaries. “I can summarize this in one word: betrayal.”

His GOP colleagues Steve Chabot of Ohio and Lee Zeldin of New York were even more blunt. “This is a disgrace,” Chabot said. “This was fatally flawed and poorly executed,” said Zeldin. “I believe that you, sir, should resign. That would be leadership.”

Others Say Trump is Also to Blame; Biden ‘Inherited’ Taliban Deal

The chairman of the committee, New York Rep. Gregory Meeks, urged his colleagues to keep politics out of their criticism. But he acknowledged that there had been problems. “Could things have been done differently? Absolutely,” he said.

Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who has been ostracized by many in the GOP for his criticism of Trump, placed blame for the situation on both Trump and Biden. “The Trump administration failed in the setup and the Biden administration failed in the execution,” Kinzinger said.

Blinken tried to calmly deflect allegations of unpreparedness by noting that the Biden administration had inherited a U.S.-Taliban peace deal from its predecessor, along with a languishing program to grant visas to Afghans who had worked for the U.S. government.

Blinken, who had publicly predicted in June that a complete Taliban takeover would not happen “from a Friday to a Monday,” also tried to preempt criticism of the prediction by noting that no one in the U.S. government expected the Afghan government to fall as quickly as it did.

“Even the most pessimistic assessments did not predict that government forces in Kabul would collapse while U.S. forces remained,” Blinken said in prepared remarks released ahead of his appearance. He also defended the evacuation effort, saying it succeeded despite near insurmountable odds.

“The evacuation was an extraordinary effort — under the most difficult conditions imaginable — by our diplomats, military, and intelligence professionals,” he said. “In the end, we completed one of the biggest airlifts in history, with 124,000 people evacuated to safety.”

GOP Doubles Down on Demand to ‘Fire Blinken’

But Republicans, in particular, have been demanding answers as to why American citizens were left behind in the chaotic days and weeks before the military completed its withdrawal on Aug. 30.

In a preview of GOP questions, the Republican National Committee released a statement earlier Monday with the banner headline “Fire Blinken,” demanding that he be held to account for what it described as a litany of failings.

After the more than five-hour hearing concluded, the GOP committee doubled down on its demand.

“Today’s hearing makes Blinken’s failures and lies abundantly clear,” RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said. “Biden has no choice but to fire Blinken, hold him accountable, and take responsibility for the disaster he created.”

Some Republicans appeared to have be spoiling for a fight with the generally unflappable Blinken. Rep. Bryan Mast of Florida accused Blinken of lying when he denied that intelligence had been manipulated to support Biden’s desire to withdraw U.S. troops. “I do not believe a word you have said,” he told Blinken.

Democrats Have Also Been Critical of Biden and Blinken

In a rare show of temper, Blinken replied: “Simply put, what you said congressman, is dead wrong.”

Blinken is very close to Biden and his job as America’s top diplomat is almost certainly safe, but criticism of the administration’s handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal has not been limited to Republicans.

Numerous Democrats have also questioned the policy and expressed concern about stranded Americans, green card holders and Afghans who could face retaliation from the Taliban because of their work or ties to the U.S. government over the past 20 years.

State Department officials have acknowledged that the congressional hearings could be contentious and possibly ugly, but many remain convinced the U.S. military and other officials did the best they could under extremely trying circumstances — including the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and the crush of thousands of desperate people at Kabul’s airport seeking to leave the country.

RELATED TOPICS:

DON'T MISS

Costco Tries Again at City Council for Big NW Fresno Move

DON'T MISS

Scheffler Turns the Masters Into Another Sunday Yawner With a Dominating Win

DON'T MISS

Ethiopia’s Lemma Wins, Fresno’s Albertson 7th in Boston Marathon. Kenya’s Obiri Retains Women Title.

DON'T MISS

Vegas, US Tour and More Signings: Wrexham Has Plenty of Fun and Work Ahead After Latest Promotion

DON'T MISS

This Week’s Weather Will Take Us from Fleece to Flip-Flops

DON'T MISS

NBA Play-in Game Preview: West Games on Tuesday, East Games on Wednesday, Eliminations on Friday

DON'T MISS

Palestinian Supporters Block Golden Gate Bridge, Chicago’s O’Hare Airport

DON'T MISS

Biden’s Embrace of Trump’s Tariffs Could Spell Trouble for His Reelection: Fareed Zakaria

DON'T MISS

Ship That Caused Bridge Collapse Had Apparent Electrical Issues While Still Docked, Source Says

DON'T MISS

Bureau of Prisons to Close California Women’s Prison Where Inmates Have Been Subjected to Sex Abuse

UP NEXT

How California Legislators Got More Than $1.4 Million in Travel and Gifts in 2023

UP NEXT

Reacher Star Alan Ritchson Calls Donald Trump a ‘Rapist’

UP NEXT

A Near-Total Ban on Abortion Has Supercharged the Political Dynamics of Arizona, a Key Swing State

UP NEXT

House Advances Reauthorization of US Spy Program as GOP Upheaval Threatens Final Passage

UP NEXT

Tennessee Lawmakers Send Bill to Ban First-Cousin Marriages to Governor

UP NEXT

More Aid Is Supposed to Be Entering the Gaza Strip. Why Isn’t It Helping?

UP NEXT

Wife of Julian Assange Says Biden’s Comments Mean Case Could Be Moving in the Right Direction

UP NEXT

Trump Says Jewish Voters Backing Biden ‘Should Have Their Head Examined’

UP NEXT

Taxes Are on the November Ballot in Monumental CA Showdown

UP NEXT

Appeal Court Rules Fong Can Stay on CA-20 Congressional Ballot

Vegas, US Tour and More Signings: Wrexham Has Plenty of Fun and Work Ahead After Latest Promotion

50 mins ago

This Week’s Weather Will Take Us from Fleece to Flip-Flops

Weather /

58 mins ago

NBA Play-in Game Preview: West Games on Tuesday, East Games on Wednesday, Eliminations on Friday

1 hour ago

Palestinian Supporters Block Golden Gate Bridge, Chicago’s O’Hare Airport

1 hour ago

Biden’s Embrace of Trump’s Tariffs Could Spell Trouble for His Reelection: Fareed Zakaria

1 hour ago

Ship That Caused Bridge Collapse Had Apparent Electrical Issues While Still Docked, Source Says

2 hours ago

Bureau of Prisons to Close California Women’s Prison Where Inmates Have Been Subjected to Sex Abuse

3 hours ago

Rosario, Pinto Homer off Snell in His Return to Tropicana Field as Rays Beat Giants

3 hours ago

Are Americans Feeling Like They Get Enough Sleep? Dream On, a New Gallup Poll Says

4 hours ago

Profar’s Tiebreaking 3-Run Double in 7th Inning Lifts Padres Over Dodgers

4 hours ago

Costco Tries Again at City Council for Big NW Fresno Move

Costco wants to move its northwest Fresno location to a bigger, better facility. After roadblocks at a city council meeting last month, the ...

22 mins ago

22 mins ago

Costco Tries Again at City Council for Big NW Fresno Move

37 mins ago

Scheffler Turns the Masters Into Another Sunday Yawner With a Dominating Win

38 mins ago

Ethiopia’s Lemma Wins, Fresno’s Albertson 7th in Boston Marathon. Kenya’s Obiri Retains Women Title.

51 mins ago

Vegas, US Tour and More Signings: Wrexham Has Plenty of Fun and Work Ahead After Latest Promotion

Weather /
58 mins ago

This Week’s Weather Will Take Us from Fleece to Flip-Flops

1 hour ago

NBA Play-in Game Preview: West Games on Tuesday, East Games on Wednesday, Eliminations on Friday

1 hour ago

Palestinian Supporters Block Golden Gate Bridge, Chicago’s O’Hare Airport

1 hour ago

Biden’s Embrace of Trump’s Tariffs Could Spell Trouble for His Reelection: Fareed Zakaria

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend