Washington – A Top Senate Democrats On Tuesday, the Biden administration’s handling of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan was “seriously flawed” and threatened Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin if he did not agree to testify “in the near future”.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken faces a scathing rebuke from Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee second day of intensive interrogation Lawmakers resented the chaotic US exit from Afghanistan.
“The execution of the American withdrawal was clearly and grossly flawed,” Menendez, DNJ, told Blinken in the opening remarks. “This committee hopes to receive a full explanation of the administration’s decisions on Afghanistan since coming into office last January. There must be accountability.”
Blinken strongly defended President Joe Biden’s decision to end America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan and the administration’s decision to deal with the evacuation. He said no one in the US government had predicted that Afghan security forces would surrender to the Taliban so soon, a surprising development that paved the way for the militant Islamic group to take over the country in a matter of days.
“Even the most pessimistic assessment did not predict that government forces in Kabul would collapse, while US forces would remain,” Blinken said. “They were focused on what would happen once the United States withdrew since September.”
After Afghan forces disbanded, Blinken said, State Department and Pentagon officials made “an extraordinary effort to evacuate American civilians and Afghan allies in two weeks, before the final US troop withdrawal from Kabul at the end of last month.” ” did.
“They worked round the clock to get American citizens, Afghans who help us, citizens of our allies and partners, and at-risk Afghans on the plane (and) out of the country,” Blinken told the committee. “Finally, we completed one of the largest airlifts in history, evacuating 124,000 people safely.”
Lawmakers on both sides are deeply disappointed that the State Department had not previously launched a large-scale evacuation, specifically targeting Afghans who had worked for US troops during the war and who are now in retaliation for the Taliban. are affected by. They are also concerned about the estimated 100 US citizens who are still in Afghanistan and are seeking to leave.
Menendez said some of the blame lies with former President Donald Trump, who said he negotiated a “surrender deal” with the Taliban that was “clearly built on a set of lies.” Under that deal, signed in February 2020, the US agreed to the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners, many of whom were hard-line fighters who quickly returned to the battlefield.
But Menendez, a typically White House aide, made it clear that he had no intention of shielding a democratic administration from scrutiny on Afghanistan. He and Sen. James Risk of Idaho, the ranking Republican on the committee, called on Austin to testify about his exit from the US.
“A full account of the US response to this crisis is not complete without the Pentagon, especially when it comes to understanding the complete collapse of the US-trained and funded Afghan military,” Menendez said. “His decision not to appear before the committee will affect my personal decision on Defense Department nominees.”
He said he expected Austin to testify soon, and if he declined, “I may consider using the committee’s power of summons to coerce him and others.”
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