Politics Democrats Join GOP Pouring Scorn on Blinken Over Afghan Exit
After two decades and billions spent, Afghan government collapses as Taliban takes Kabul
The Taliban, which for hours had been in the outskirts of Kabul, announced soon after they would move farther into a city gripped by panic.Embattled President Ashraf Ghani fled the country as the Taliban entered the capital city of Kabul, and American troops scrambled to evacuate thousands of U.S. diplomats and Afghans from the U.S. Embassy.
(Bloomberg) -- 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.
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 takeover of Afghanistan. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, said a swift government collapse “was a possibility that had to be grappled with.”
'Nobody should be surprised': Why Afghan security forces crumbled so quickly to the Taliban
Analysts say there were signs the Afghan military – unmotivated, disorganized and plagued by low morale – would struggle against the Taliban. "They were evident for a long time," said retired Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, a twice-deployed veteran of the war in Afghanistan. "Nobody should be surprised by these outcomes if they had been paying attention." More: A timeline of the US withdrawal and Taliban recapture of Afghanistan Unmotivated to fight for 'corrupt' government The U.S. pumped more than $80 billion in equipment and training into the Afghan security forces since the start of the war in Afghanistan, which the U.S.
“Over the last 20 years at different times, Congress has been misled,” Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, told Blinken. “Assessments were definitely overly rosy to say the best. And if we’re not to repeat the past we need to learn from it.”
It was a bipartisan challenge, a day after Blinken testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where Republicans attacked the administration while Democrats largely blamed former President Donald Trump for the deal his administration cut with the Taliban last year for the U.S. to withdraw.
Like their House counterparts, some Republicans demanded Blinken’s resignation and questioned why he hadn’t stepped down already. Senator John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, criticized the administration for hailing the withdrawal of some 124,000 people as a success, saying it had been marred by failure.
‘No possible life’ under Taliban rule: Afghan women fear murder, oppression after US withdrawal
"If the Taliban returns to power, I along with other women who work in the government will either be stoned to death or executed in public."These memories are invariably the stuff of nightmares.
“This has to be the lie of the 21st century,” Barrasso said of Biden’s claim. “It’s dishonest and if he believes it, it’s delusional. America can no longer say we leave no American behind -- because Joe Biden did.”
Repeatedly questioned about the failure to predict the rapid Taliban advance, Blinken said there was nothing the administration saw that “suggested that this government and security forces would collapse in a matter of days.”
He also offered a broader reflection, telling Hawaii Democrat Brian Schatz that the U.S. had erred in trying to “remake the country and, in effect, to use military force to remake another society.”
“Whatever our intentions, that is probably something that is beyond our capacity and the net of that is that we were there for 20 years,” he said.
A rare peek inside the Fort Bliss Afghan refugee camp, 'Doña Ana Village'
An austere Army camp built in the 1960s to house 1,800 soldiers in training has expanded into a campus supporting nearly 10,000 Afghan refugees.An austere Army camp built in the 1960s to house 1,800 soldiers in training has expanded into a campus of dormitories and dining halls, community centers and soccer fields, as well as religious and medical facilities supporting nearly 10,000 Afghan refugees, nearly a third of them children.
Video: Blinken pushes back on GOP criticism of Afghan withdrawal (Associated Press)
“We need to look back at all of this,” Blinken said. “We did not see this collapse in a matter of 11 days, but it is important that we go back and look at all of this.”
Although the Biden administration has said top military leaders supported the withdrawal from Afghanistan, senators who held a closed-door meeting with defense officials later Tuesday said that view wasn’t unanimous.
“Truth is, clearly President Biden didn’t listen to all military advice,” Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters after the briefing.
According to Inhofe, General Austin Scott Miller, who was the top commander in Afghanistan, was against a complete withdrawal and told senators he’d said that to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of Central Command, and General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Inhofe said McKenzie had authorized disclosure of his position.
White House says a 'fair amount' of US military equipment provided to Afghans is now in Taliban hands
"Obviously, we don't have a sense that they are going to readily hand it over to us at the airport," National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said.WASHINGTON — National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Tuesday a "fair amount" of military equipment the U.S. provided the Afghan National Security Forces was seized by the Taliban in the militant group's quick route of Afghanistan.
Pressed before the Senate committee about American citizens left behind in the withdrawal, Blinken told lawmakers that the U.S. had given many warnings to Americans that they should leave Afghanistan and is still working to evacuate the 100 or so believed to remain there. As the United Nations and other groups warn of a humanitarian catastrophe in the country, the U.S. is also planning to provide $64 million in new humanitarian aid, he said.
The hearing also fell into what has become a familiar pattern: Blinken was repeatedly asked to answer for decisions and missteps made by other agencies, such as the intelligence community and the Defense Department. Republican senators repeatedly brought up the Pentagon’s recommendation -- approved by Biden -- to abandon Bagram air base as the military withdrew.
Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, excoriated Blinken for a drone strike in August that a New York Times investigation found may have killed a U.S.-employed aid worker and several children, not the terrorist the U.S. thought it was tracking. He reacted with disgust when Blinken said an investigation would determine whether the attack hit its intended target.
“You think you’d kind of know when you off somebody with a Predator drone,” Paul said. “Guess what, maybe you’ve created hundreds or thousands of new potential terrorists.”
Menendez said that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had declined to appear at the hearing and threatened to subpoena the Pentagon chief. In a subsequent statement, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said other commitments made the appearance “impracticable.” Austin will testify before both chambers’ armed services committees by the end of the month, Kirby said.
Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire criticized the efforts to assign blame, saying “the important thing for us to do now is to figure out how we can work together to address those people who still need to be evacuated from Afghanistan. There are a lot of people to blame, and we all share in it.”
(Updates with Republican citing dissent among military leaders in 11th paragraph)
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Photos show turmoil and panic as Taliban enter Afghanistan's capital Kabul .
The United Nations has cited continued reports of serious human rights abuses and violations in the communities most affected by the fighting. International aid groups have warned of a humanitarian crisis.U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed particular concern Sunday about the future of women and girls in the country, saying hard-won rights "must be protected" and "all abuses must stop.