Watch Live: Blinken to answer senators' questions on Afghanistan

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken appeared before lawmakers again on Tuesday, defending the Biden administration’s decision to withdr...


Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken appeared before lawmakers again on Tuesday, defending the Biden administration’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan and insisting the State Department did its best to plan the chaotic evacuation as US troops prepared to leave last month.

After more than five hours of virtual testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday, Mr Blinken appeared in person before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, making no further concessions of fault even as Republicans denounced the withdrawal of President Biden’s troops across the country as “catastrophic,” in the words of Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio.

As he did on Monday, Blinken argued that the State Department added staff earlier this year to quickly expedite the processing of special immigrant visas for Afghans who had worked with US forces in Afghanistan, and noted that the Trump administration had halted treatment. of these visas for months.

But committee members questioned whether the Biden administration should have done more contingency planning to prepare for the possibility of the sudden fall of the Afghan government, which occurred last month, and whether the administration Should have delayed the departure of US troops until more Americans and Afghans at risk could be relocated from the country.

Mr Blinken said the administration’s worst-case planning began “in the spring and summer” with interagency meetings coordinated by the White House.

Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney took issue with Mr Blinken’s frequent refrain that the Biden administration was forced to withdraw quickly due to a deal the Trump administration struck in 2020 with the Taliban , setting a date of exit from the country on May 1. Mr Biden ordered all troops to leave by Aug.31 – after initially announcing a withdrawal before September 11, 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks – and said staying longer would have sparked attacks from the Taliban, who agreed, as part of the deal with Mr. Trump, not to attack the retreating US forces.

Mr Romney asked Mr Blinken why, if the Biden administration was willing to break the May 1 exit deadline, it could not have stayed longer than August 31 to ensure a more orderly evacuation.

“The date was May 1 and you pushed it back to August 31. Why didn’t you push it back much later?” Mr. Romney asked.

Mr Blinken said the military told Mr Biden it took three to four months to withdraw from the country “in a safe and orderly manner,” and added that the Biden administration had incurred some risk of Taliban attacks by staying as long as he has.

“We took a certain risk in terms of what the Taliban would or would not do after May 1,” he said.

Mr. Blinken also told Mr. Romney he was open to further authorization from Congress for the use of military force to govern actions to combat a possible resurgence of international terrorist activity in Afghanistan.

Asked by Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio about the Taliban’s long-standing ties to Al Qaeda, which US officials said on Tuesday could rebuild in Afghanistan within one to two yearsMr Blinken conceded that “the relationship has not been severed, and it is a very open question whether their views and the relationship have changed for good.”

House Republicans hammered Mr. Blinken on Monday, calling for his resignation and accusing the Biden administration of incompetence and obfuscation. Mr Blinken conceded little fault, saying the Trump administration gave Team Biden an impossible hand in closing the deal in 2020. “We inherited a deadline. We didn’t inherit a plan, ”Blinken said.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Watch Live: Blinken to answer senators' questions on Afghanistan
Watch Live: Blinken to answer senators' questions on Afghanistan
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