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Politics Senate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken

05:55  15 september  2021
05:55  15 september  2021 Source:   thehill.com

Afghanistan updates: Blinken faces 2nd day of grilling on Capitol Hill

  Afghanistan updates: Blinken faces 2nd day of grilling on Capitol Hill The Taliban have taken control of Afghanistan even as some Americans and Afghans continue desperate efforts to get out.But even as the last American troops were flown out to meet President Joe Biden's Aug. 31 deadline, other Americans who wanted to flee the country were left behind. The Biden administration is now focused on a "diplomatic mission" to help them leave but some hoping to evacuate are still stuck in the country. Meanwhile, the Taliban has announced its new "caretaker" government that includes men with U.S. bounties on their heads -- and no women.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken ’s attempt to evade questions about a drone strike that allegedly killed a Kabul aid worker backfired, as Senator Rand Paul pointed out that the target should have been known before the attack. Pressed by Paul (R-Kentucky) on whether the August 29 strike killed an aid worker or an ISIS-K operative, Blinken testified in a Senate hearing on Tuesday that the Biden administration is reviewing the incident, and “a full assessment will be forthcoming.” Let ’s stop sending good money after bad.”

– Senator Risch Grills Blinken During Senate Testimony – Blinken Lies and Says Americans Are Making This Up (VIDEO). Tony Blinken : I think anyone who knows the president including members of this committee knows that he speaks very clearly and very deliberately for himself. No one else does.

Senate Democrats and Republicans let loose their frustrations Tuesday over the Biden administration's handling of the U.S. exit from Afghanistan, giving an earful to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Tony Blinken wearing a suit and tie: Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives for a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on September 14, 2021. Blinken was questioned about the Biden administration's handling of the U.S. withdraw from Afghanistan. © Getty Images Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives for a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on September 14, 2021. Blinken was questioned about the Biden administration's handling of the U.S. withdraw from Afghanistan.

Republicans branded President Biden as responsible for what they said was a colossal failure in Afghanistan that has jeopardized America's standing while empowering adversaries like Russia and China.

Blinken testifies on Afghanistan before House lawmakers angry about the war's chaotic end

  Blinken testifies on Afghanistan before House lawmakers angry about the war's chaotic end Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended the Biden administration's withdrawal from Afghanistan and the chaotic evacuation effort that marked the end of America's longest war in the face of blistering criticism Monday from lawmakers and some calls for his resignation. © Ting Shen/Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on Review of the FY 2022 State Department Budget Request in Washington, D.C., the United States, on June 8, 2021.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is testifying Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he'll face a second day of interrogation from Republican lawmakers highly critical of the Biden administration's withdrawal from Afghanistan. The big picture: In more than five hours of testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Blinken also disputed Republicans' claims that Biden ignored or "manipulated" intelligence about the pending collapse of the Afghan government, insisting that the administration performed as well as it could have under conditions no one predicted.

One GOP lawmaker called Blinken out for appearing via video on Monday. At Tuesday's hearing committee chair Sen. Bob Menendez expressed disappointment that Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin did not appear with Blinken . Menendez threatened to subpoena Austin 'and others' if he didn't come in. Senator Bob Menendez, the committee's Democratic chairman, asked the Senate on Monday to confirm four of some 80 State Department nominees now pending before the Senate , many of them being blocked by Republican Senator Ted Cruz.

"I supported a responsible end to the war in Afghanistan," said Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, during the hearing with the secretary. "No American thinks we should have left this way."

Democrats largely placed responsibility for the failures in Afghanistan on presidents of both parties and Congress.

But Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the panel's chairman, did criticize the Biden administration for its handling of the situation, and threatened to hold up Pentagon nominees and subpoena Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for not appearing at Tuesday's hearing.

"A full accounting of the U.S. response to this crisis is not complete without the Pentagon, especially when it comes to understanding the complete collapse of the U.S.-trained and -funded Afghan military," Menendez said. "His decision not to appear before the committee will affect my personal judgment on Department of Defense nominees."

The Latest: Blinken says US working with Taliban on flights

  The Latest: Blinken says US working with Taliban on flights DOHA, Qatar — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the State Department is working with the Taliban to facilitate additional charter flights from Kabul for people seeking to leave Afghanistan after the American military and diplomatic departure. Blinken was speaking on Tuesday at a joint news conference with Qatar’s top diplomats and defense officials. He said the U.S. has been in contact with the Taliban “in recent hours” to work out arrangements for additional charter flights from the Afghan capital.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to testify Monday in what is expected to be a confrontational and emotional hearing about Afghanistan and the chaotic withdrawal that ended America's longest war. The top US diplomat, the first Biden administration official to publicly account for the events in Afghanistan before Congress, will appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is expected to face a grilling from lawmakers in both parties who have been furious about the outcome.

Blinken promised to use “every tool at our disposal — through our diplomacy, through our economic assistance, humanitarian assistance, programmatic assistance” to address the issue. That includes naming a new senior official at the State Department specific to protecting women and minority rights in Afghanistan. In response to another point of GOP criticism, Blinken dismissed concerns about military equipment left behind in the withdrawal and shown under Taliban control in recent weeks. “Our folks worked very hard to disable or dismantle equipment that we still controlled before we left,” he said.

Blinken defended the Biden administration's withdrawal operation, saying the president faced a choice "between ending the war, or escalating." Keeping the American military in Afghanistan beyond Aug. 31, he said, would have triggered Taliban attacks on U.S. forces and a deeper military engagement.

The Taliban had halted attacks on American personnel following an agreement reached with the former Trump administration, which pledged to evacuate all U.S. military by May 1. Blinken said the Biden administration took a risk in extending that deadline to August based on the needs of the military to finish its drawdown.

"Had [Biden] not followed through on his predecessor's commitment, attacks on our forces, and those of our allies would have resumed and the Taliban's nationwide assault on Afghanistan's major cities would have commenced," the secretary said.


Video: House member criticizes colleagues for handling of Blinken testimony (MSNBC)

Blinken pushes back on GOP criticism of Afghan withdrawal

  Blinken pushes back on GOP criticism of Afghan withdrawal WASHINGTON (AP) — 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. © Provided by Associated Press Rep.

Senator Bob Menendez, the committee's Democratic chairman, asked the Senate on Monday to confirm four of some 80 State Department nominees now pending before the Senate , many of them being blocked by Republican Senator Ted Cruz. WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken appealed to the Senate on Tuesday to quickly confirm President Joe Biden's nominees for national security-related positions, citing the ever-present risk of attacks.

Top US diplomat Antony Blinken has defended the chaotic Afghanistan pull-out in the first official testimony to members of Congress since the exit. The Secretary of State has faced particular criticism regarding the Americans and allies left behind. Mr Blinken argued staying longer would not have made a difference. In nearly 20 years of war, more than 6,000 Americans and 100,000 local Afghans were killed, at an estimated cost of more than tn (£1.4tn). Amid criticism at home and from allies abroad, Democrats and Biden officials have tried to shift focus away from the final days in Afghanistan.

"That would have required sending substantially more U.S. forces into Afghanistan to defend ourselves and to prevent a Taliban takeover, taking casualties, and at best, the prospect of restoring a stalemate and remaining stuck in Afghanistan under fire indefinitely."

Blinken said the administration pressed the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan earlier this year to implement a strategy to defend the major cities.

"As we pressed, and pressed, and pressed on them, the response was 'Yes, we'll do it.' But they didn't," the secretary said.

Lawmakers also pressed Blinken over the 125,000 people evacuated from Afghanistan between Aug. 15 and 31. The vast majority of these people are unaccounted Afghans who are not American citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants or Afghans who worked with the U.S. over the 20-year war.

Blinken said the majority of those evacuated are "Afghans at-risk," a broad category that covers people who could be under threat from the Taliban for their work, gender or ethnicity. The secretary said a breakdown of this number will be ready "in a couple of weeks."

Democrats Join GOP Pouring Scorn on Blinken Over Afghan Exit

  Democrats Join GOP Pouring Scorn on Blinken Over Afghan Exit The Biden administration came in for a second round of withering criticism in Congress on Tuesday over its handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, with Democrats joining Republicans in accusing officials of bungling the pullout and painting too glossy a picture of how it unfolded. © Bloomberg President Biden Delivers Remarks On Afghanistan Evacuation Robert Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the withdrawal was “clearly and fatally flawed,” and scorched President Joe Biden and his team for failing to anticipate the Taliban’s speedy takeov

Left behind are "thousands" of SIV applicants, the secretary said. About 100 Americans are still in Afghanistan requiring assistance to leave.

"We didn't get the right people out," Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said, criticizing the administration. "And many who we did get out, seem not to fall into any of the categories that we were concerned about."

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also pressed Blinken on what the Biden administration knows of the U.S. drone strike last month that killed 10 people, including seven children and an aide worker. The military has said the strike took out an effort to bomb people at Kabul's airport, but investigations by The New York Times and Washington Post have raised serious questions about the operation.

Blinken said the administration is reviewing the strike and "that a full assessment will be coming."

"You think you'd know before you off someone with a predator drone," Paul retorted.

GOP criticisms of the withdrawal drew a sharp rebuke from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who criticized the entire committee for hypocrisy.

"I think there is a lot of regret and a lot of recriminations to go around," she said, and pressed for bipartisanship to facilitate more evacuations and efforts to protect the human rights of women, girls and minorities from the Taliban's fundamentalist reign.

"I do think we need an accounting - that's important for history and going forward. But, let's stop with the hypocrisy of who's to blame. There are a lot of people to blame, and we all share in it."

McCain's speech saying Blinken will be dangerous to America resurfaces .
The late Sen. John McCain's 2014 floor speech against the nomination of Antony Blinken to be deputy secretary of State has resurfaced amid the U.S.'s pull-out from Afghanistan.The Arizona Republican came to the Senate floor on December 16, 2014 and told colleagues that he rarely spoke out publicly against a president's nominee, but he considered Blinken 'unqualified' and 'one of the worst selections of a very bad lot.

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This is interesting!