‘Fatally flawed’: Top Senate Democrat blasts Biden administration’s Afghanistan withdrawal

Written by on September 14, 2021

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Blinken testifies earlier than Washington lawmakers on Afghanistan withdrawal

Blinken provides motive as to why he defends the Biden administration’s determination within the Afghanistan withdrawal.

Related Press, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – A prime Senate Democrat on Tuesday blasted the Biden administration’s dealing with of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan as “fatally flawed” and threatened to subpoena Protection Secretary Lloyd Austin if he would not comply with testify “within the close to future.” 

The sharp rebuke from Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate International Relations Committee, got here as Secretary of State Antony Blinken confronted a second day of intense questioning by lawmakers livid over the chaotic U.S. exit from Afghanistan.

“The execution of the U.S. withdrawal was clearly and fatally flawed,” Menendez, D-N.J., informed Blinken in opening remarks. “This committee expects to obtain a full rationalization of the administration’s choices on Afghanistan since coming into workplace final January. There must be accountability.” 

Republicans known as Biden’s dealing with of the withdrawal an epic navy and international coverage catastrophe, even a few of those that beforehand supported the choice to finish the warfare. 

“I’ve advocated for an finish to the Afghan warfare for over a decade, I am glad it is lastly over,” mentioned Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. “However by no means in my worst nightmares did anybody … conceive of such a colossal incompetence.” 

He faulted the Biden administration for leaving U.S. navy gear behind and for closing Bagram Airfield too early within the withdrawal, amongst different steps. And he grilled Blinken over experiences that an Aug. 29 drone strike could have killed an Afghan help employee and his household – not Islamic State terrorists, as Pentagon leaders have asserted. 

“Was he an help employee or an ISIS-Ok operative?” Paul requested, referring to Islamic State associates in Kabul.

Blinken mentioned he did not know and the administration is reviewing the matter.

“You’d suppose you’d form of know earlier than you off somebody with a predator drone,” Paul responded, arguing that if the person killed was an Afghan civilian, the American strike may very well be used as propaganda for the recruitment of latest potential terrorists. 

Blinken strongly defended President Joe Biden’s determination to finish America’s 20-year warfare in Afghanistan and the administration’s dealing with of the evacuation. He mentioned nobody within the U.S. authorities predicted the Afghan safety forces would give up to the Taliban so rapidly, a shock improvement that paved the way in which for the militant Islamic group to take over the nation inside days. 

“Even probably the most pessimistic assessments didn’t predict that authorities forces in Kabul would collapse whereas U.S. forces remained,” Blinken mentioned. “They had been targeted on what would occur after the US withdrew, from September onward.”

After the Afghan forces disintegrated, Blinken mentioned, State Division and the Pentagon officers orchestrated “a rare effort” to evacuate U.S. residents and Afghan allies over the course over two weeks, earlier than the final U.S. forces withdrew from Kabul on the finish of final month.

“They labored across the clock to get Americans, Afghans who helped us, residents of our allies and companions, and at-risk Afghans on planes (and) in another country,” Blinken informed the committee. “Ultimately, we accomplished one of many largest airlifts in historical past, with 124,000 individuals evacuated to security.” 

Lawmakers in each events stay deeply annoyed that the State Division didn’t start a mass evacuation earlier, focusing on Afghans who labored for the U.S. navy in the course of the warfare and who at the moment are acutely weak to Taliban reprisals. They’re additionally involved concerning the estimated 100 U.S. residents who’re nonetheless in Afghanistan and searching for to depart.  

However Tuesday’s session was not a bipartisan pile-on. A number of Democrats mentioned there was no clear method for the U.S. to depart Afghanistan after years of executing a failed mission that shifted from defeating al-Qaida to nation constructing.  

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, mentioned Washington pundits and protection contractors are popping out about how the warfare ended “as a result of they did not need it to ever finish.”

“They’re mad as a result of they suppose we needs to be an occupying pressure indefinitely, and so they know that place is untenable,” he mentioned. “They will not acknowledge the basic mistake was that we invaded a rustic in Central Asia with no good understanding of its individuals, its historical past or origins or of its tradition.”

‘Cease with the hypocrisy’

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., mentioned she and different senators tried for years to hurry up the particular immigrant visa (SIV) course of for Afghans who served alongside U.S. troops, as translators and in different roles, however these efforts had been stymied by Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration. She questioned how GOP lawmakers may very well be expressing outrage now over their destiny and the destiny of Afghan girls.

“There have been just a few Republicans within the Senate who blocked us 12 months after 12 months from getting extra SIV candidates to the US,” she mentioned, “and I need to know the place that outrage was in the course of the negotiations by the Trump administration and former Secretary (of State Mike) Pompeo once they had been making a gift of the rights of ladies and women.” 

She was referring to the 2020 settlement that the Trump administration signed with the Taliban, underneath which the U.S. agreed to a full navy withdrawal by Could 1, 2021. In change, the Taliban agreed to cease attacking American troops and sever its ties with al-Qaida, the terrorist group that launched the Sept. 11, 2001 assaults on the U.S. 

“Sec. Pompeo got here earlier than this committee and blew off questions on what they had been doing to stress the Taliban to have girls on the negotiating desk for that peace treaty,” Shaheen mentioned in a flash of anger. “Let’s cease with the hypocrisy of who’s responsible. There are lots of people responsible, and all of us share in it.”

Menendez known as former President Donald Trump’s settlement with the Taliban a “give up deal” that was “clearly constructed on a set of lies.” Beneath that settlement, he famous, the U.S. agreed to the discharge of 5,000 Taliban prisoners, a lot of whom had been hardened fighters who rapidly returned to the battlefield.

However Menendez, usually a White Home ally, made it clear he has no intention of defending a Democratic administration from scrutiny over Afghanistan. He and the rating Republican on the committee, Sen. James Risch of Idaho, demanded Austin testify concerning the U.S. exit. 

“A full accounting of the U.S. response to this disaster just isn’t full with out the Pentagon, particularly relating to understanding the entire collapse of the U.S. educated and funded Afghan navy,” Menendez mentioned. “His the choice to not seem earlier than the committee will have an effect on my private judgment on Division of Protection nominees.”

He mentioned he expects Austin to testify quickly, and if he refuses, “I’ll think about the usage of committee subpoena energy to compel him and others.”

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby mentioned Austin had a battle and could be testifying earlier than Congress later this month. 

“He enormously respects the oversight position of the Congress, and he appears to be like ahead to testifying on the finish of this month earlier than the Senate and Home Armed Companies Committees,” Kirby mentioned. 

Some international coverage specialists mentioned Congress’ demand for “accountability” over the execution of U.S. withdrawal was ludicrous provided that lawmakers primarily rubber stamped twenty years of a failed U.S. coverage in Afghanistan, together with large civilian deaths and rampant authorities corruption.

“I’ve a tricky time not rolling my eyes on the sudden curiosity in concern and oversight,” Daniel DePetris, a fellow at Protection Priorities, a Washington-based suppose tank that advocates for restraint in U.S. navy coverage, tweeted on Tuesday.

“Did the evacuation course of have issues? Clearly,” he wrote. “Did counterinsurgency work? No. Was nation-building a colossal waste of taxpayer cash? Sure. The place was the righteous indignation then?” 

Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow on the Carnegie Endowment for Worldwide Peace and former State Division official throughout a number of administrations, mentioned it is unlikely there shall be any true accountability for a cascade of errors over the complete course of the 20-year warfare. There’s an excessive amount of partisanship and it is too complicated for lawmakers to deal with in a significant method, Miller mentioned in a tweet Tuesday. 

Contributing: Tom Vanden Brook


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