Blinken Begins Second Day Of Questioning With Defense Of U.S. Withdrawal From Afghanistan
By RFE/RL September 14, 2021
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has reiterated that "it was time to end America's longest war" as he started a second round of testy congressional questioning on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Blinken's assessment came during his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 14, his second-straight day of facing harsh criticism from a congressional committee.
Both the top Democrat and the top Republican on the committee gave a scathing review of the withdrawal of the United States from its longest war ever, with New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez saying it "was clearly and fatally flawed."
Idaho Republican James Risch echoed those comments, calling the withdrawal a "dismal failure."
As he did the previous day, Blinken defended the evacuation approach taken by the administration of President Joe Biden, saying he had been in "constant contact" with allies during the process.
He also outlined steps the administration continues to take to neutralize terrorist threats that could emerge from the region in the absence of U.S. troops.
Blinken immediately defended the U.S. withdrawal in his opening statement saying the administration had done the best it could under extremely trying and chaotic circumstances.
He said the Biden administration had been focused on the safety of Americans and prior to the withdrawal had been constantly assessing how long the Western-backed government could survive.
He also repeated criticism of the Trump administration for its February 2020 peace deal with the Taliban that he said had tied Biden's hands, as well as the quick and unexpected collapse of the Afghan government and security forces that led to the Taliban takeover on August 15.
"Even the most pessimistic assessments did not predict that government forces in Kabul would collapse while U.S. forces remained," he said. "They were focused on what would happen after the United States withdrew, from September onward."
The United States is committed to bringing out at-risk Afghans and the Americans left behind if they want to leave, he said. Blinken said a day earlier that roughly 100 U.S. citizens remain along with "several thousand" green-card holders.
Blinken pledged that the United States will continue to support humanitarian aid but through nongovernmental organizations and UN agencies, not the Taliban.
With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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