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Blinken defends withdrawal from Afghanistan in first congressional listening to marathon

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended the Biden Administration’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan during a controversial hearing on Capitol Hill, the opening salvo in a series of Congressional hearings aimed at creating like a 20-year war with more than $ 2 trillion in one full war could end – full Taliban victory.

Blinken told lawmakers the Biden government had done its best to evacuate as many Americans and vulnerable Afghans as possible quickly in the face of the rapid collapse of the Afghan government in the face of a swift Taliban offensive. He also portrayed US President Joe Biden’s decision to retire as the least bad option available to the United States after two decades of conflict.

Former US President Donald Trump brokered a peace agreement with the Taliban in February 2020 that gave the terrorist group political legitimacy, forced the Afghan government to release 5,000 Taliban fighters and ordered a quick withdrawal of all US forces – with no plans for the country‘S future stability. Biden ended up keeping the U.S. forces in place for several months longer, but still opted to withdraw from the Trump deal‘S broad terms.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended the Biden Administration’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan during a controversial hearing on Capitol Hill, the opening salvo in a series of Congressional hearings aimed at creating like a 20-year war with more than $ 2 trillion in one full war could end – full Taliban victory.

Blinken told lawmakers the Biden government had done its best to evacuate as many Americans and vulnerable Afghans as possible quickly in the face of the rapid collapse of the Afghan government in the face of a swift Taliban offensive. He also portrayed US President Joe Biden’s decision to retire as the least bad option available to the United States after two decades of conflict.

Former US President Donald Trump brokered a peace agreement with the Taliban in February 2020 that gave the terrorist group political legitimacy, forced the Afghan government to release 5,000 Taliban fighters and ordered a quick withdrawal of all US forces – with no plans for the country‘S future stability. Biden ended up keeping the U.S. forces in place for several months longer, but still opted to withdraw from the Trump deal‘S broad terms.

“We inherited a deadline. We haven’t inherited a plan, ”Blinken told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “There is no evidence that a longer stay would have made the Afghan security forces or the Afghan government more resilient or more self-supporting. If 20 years and hundreds of billions of dollars in support, equipment and training aren’t enough, why another year, another five, another 10? “

The overthrow of the Afghan government “didn’t have to happen, but the president refused to listen to his own generals and the intelligence services who warned him exactly what would happen if we back out,” said Republican chief Michael McCaul the US Government House Foreign Affairs Committee. “It was an unmitigated catastrophe of epic proportions. I never would have thought in my life that I would experience an unconditional surrender to the Taliban. “

Blinken’s statement on Monday, the first in a row about the war‘S chaotic ending, offered the most detailed preview yet of how the Biden administration will defend its decision to carry out Trump’s planned withdrawal from Afghanistan. It also gave a glimpse of how U.S. lawmakers – many of whom approved funding for the Afghanistan war effort during their decades-long career in Congress – will attempt to understand how 20 years of costly nation-building and counter-terrorism operations can be done in a matter of weeks.

During the hearing, Blinken, Democratic lawmakers and even some Republican lawmakers tried to distribute the blame for the botched withdrawal, underscoring both the Trump administration’s deal with the Taliban and its deliberate rejection of the Afghan government at the time, and the chaotic past few days in Kabul, in which 13 US soldiers were involved in a terrorist attack in Kabul. were killed‘S Airport.

“The Trump administration failed to get it set up, and I think the Biden administration absolutely failed to get it done,” said Republican MP Adam Kinzinger.

Around 100 US citizens and possibly tens of thousands of vulnerable Afghans who supported the US war effort and want to evacuate have been stranded in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

“We left the Americans behind enemy lines. We left behind the interpreters you, Secretary, and the President promised to protect, ”said McCaul. “I can sum it up in one word: treason.”

The United States evacuated a total of around 124,000 people in the massive airlift, including at least 23,876 vulnerable Afghans, to the United States between August 17 and August 31, the end of the US presence in the country. However, it is estimated that the majority of Afghan interpreters and possibly tens of thousands of others who received special immigrant visas to the United States as a result of their work in support of the US war effort have been left behind.

Blinken said he was still determined to evacuate all Americans, but didn’t provide specific details on how the United States would deliver on its previous promises to evacuate the Afghan interpreters and their families. Now the United States and its allies are watching carefully whether the new Taliban rulers keep their promises to provide safe passage for Afghans and foreigners who want to flee the country.

The Taliban formed an all-male, all-Taliban interim government after they won victory and conquered the country. The new cabinet, headed by Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund on the United Nations blacklist, is made up of hardline Taliban veterans from the 1990s, many of whom have been involved in deadly attacks across the country and on U.S. Armed forces were involved.

The Taliban have stated that they will not allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for foreign terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, who attempt to attack the United States or its allies, but many US officials and lawmakers are skeptical of these claims . Blinken said the government would continue to work to combat the threat, but did not outline how it could be done without a diplomatic, military or intelligence footprint in the country.

“The current assessment of the secret services is that al-Qaeda was humiliated so much long ago that it”s unable to carry out external attacks. But we will remain very vigilant if this threat reappears, ”he said.

Blinken’s even temperament and penchant for thanking and complimenting lawmakers during the hearing were insufficient to quell the anger of Republican lawmakers who railed against the Biden government’s evacuation efforts. Republican MP Joe Wilson briefly praised the US field service officers for their work, then used the question time allotted to read a New York Post editorial entitled “6 Lies Joe Biden Told About Afghanistan.”

With just over half a minute to reply, Blinken thanked Wilson for “his support for the men and women of the State Department; I appreciated that part of his testimony. “

Blinken testifies before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday, while other senior defense and intelligence officials are due to testify before other committees in the coming days.

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