U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday sought to beat back bipartisan congressional criticism of the Biden administration’s Afghanistan withdrawal as new intelligence estimates warned that al-Qaeda might quickly once more use Afghan soil to plot assaults on the US.
Blinken confronted a second day of robust congressional questioning, this time from the Senate international relations committee. As was the case a day earlier earlier than the Home international affairs committee, he was assailed by Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike over the administration’s dealing with of the pullout.
Even lawmakers sympathetic to U.S. President Joe Biden’s determination to finish America’s longest-running battle by withdrawing from Afghanistan after 20 years expressed disappointment and concern concerning the giant variety of People, inexperienced card holders and at-risk Afghans left behind within the chaotic evacuation from Kabul.
And, as Blinken testified simply three days after the twentieth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults that led to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, intelligence officers offered a bleak evaluation that al-Qaeda might start to make use of Afghan territory to threaten America inside one to 2 years.
“The execution of the U.S. withdrawal was clearly and fatally flawed,” stated committee chair Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, who has been typically supportive of U.S. President Joe Biden’s international coverage however has taken difficulty with a number of of its points, together with Afghanistan.
“This committee expects to obtain a full clarification of this administration’s selections on Afghanistan since coming into workplace final January. There must be accountability.”
A ‘dismal failure’
Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the rating Republican member of the panel, referred to as the withdrawal a “dismal failure.” He accused the administration of “ineptitude” that has price the US worldwide credibility, led to a lethal assault on U.S. troops and Afghan civilians on the Kabul airport and left many within the lurch.
“There’s not sufficient lipstick on the earth to placed on this pig to make it look any completely different than what it really is,” Risch stated.
Blinken maintained the administration had executed the most effective it might underneath extraordinarily attempting and chaotic circumstances.
He once more blamed the Trump administration for its February 2020 peace cope with the Taliban that he stated had tied Biden’s arms. He additionally criticized the short collapse of the Afghan authorities and safety forces that led to the Taliban takeover.
“Even essentially the most pessimistic assessments didn’t predict that authorities forces in Kabul would collapse whereas U.S. forces remained,” he stated. “They had been centered on what would occur after the US withdrew, from September onward.”
Renewed al-Qaeda menace
Blinken stated the administration would maintain the Taliban to their guarantees to not permit Afghanistan for use once more as a base for terrorist assaults.
However as he spoke, U.S. intelligence officers stated al-Qaeda could also be solely 12 to 24 months from reconstituting itself in Afghanistan to pose a big menace to the US.
Lt.-Gen. Scott Berrier, who leads the Defence Intelligence Company, gave that estimate whereas talking on the Intelligence & Nationwide Safety Summit in Maryland. In the meantime, David Cohen, deputy director of the Central Intelligence Company, stated the U.S. already had detected “among the indications of some potential motion of al-Qaeda to Afghanistan.
Specialists have lengthy stated the Taliban nonetheless maintains ties to al-Qaeda, which took sanctuary in Afghanistan previous to 9/11. Though Blinken was not requested straight concerning the intelligence assessments, he stated the Taliban had not totally severed its hyperlinks with the group.
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, a vehement opponent of quite a few Biden insurance policies, referred to as the withdrawal “the worst international coverage disaster in a era” and accused the administration of being naive in hoping the Taliban will dwell as much as their guarantees of moderation. “They do not wish to be welcomed into the group of civilized nations,” he stated.
Some Democrats not swayed by Blinken’s case
The State Division has come underneath heavy criticism from each events for not doing sufficient and never appearing shortly sufficient to get folks in another country. The Taliban took management of Kabul, cementing its maintain on the nation, earlier than the completion of the U.S. withdrawal on Aug. 30.
Blinken defended the withdrawal and the tip of America’s longest-running battle as “the correct factor to do.” He additionally identified the U.S. and its allies had managed to evacuate some 124,000 folks regardless of the extreme difficulties on the bottom.
“The evacuation was a unprecedented effort — underneath essentially the most tough situations conceivable — by our diplomats, army, and intelligence professionals,” he stated.
Even some Democrats, although, had been unswayed.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, the one girl on the committee, who has lengthy fought for the U.S. to guard the advances made by Afghan girls and women, lamented the present scenario and stated presidents and lawmakers of each events shared the blame for the scenario.
“Let’s cease with the hypocrisy about who’s in charge,” she stated in a pointed dig at former U.S. president Donald Trump and his second secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who negotiated the 2020 peace cope with the Taliban separate from the Afghan authorities, with no assurance that rights can be revered.
“I wish to know the place the outrage was once they had been giving freely the rights of ladies and women,” Shaheen stated.
In response, Blinken stated he would quickly be appointing a senior official to supervise U.S. coverage towards Afghan girls and women.