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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave an apologetic defense of the chaotic and bloody withdrawal of the U.S. military from Afghanistan when he appeared before lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
In prepared remarks coming before a hearing before the House of Representatives on Monday, Blinken said, “even the most pessimistic assessment did not predict that government forces in Kabul would collapse while US forces remain”, and that there was no evidence that a longer presence would have changed the outcome.
‘If 20 years and hundreds of billions of dollars in support, equipment and training were not enough, why would another year, or five, or 10, make a difference? Ask Blinken.
“Conversely, there is nothing that strategic rivals like China and Russia — or adversaries like Iran and North Korea — would have wanted more than for the United States to revive a 20-year war and get stuck in Afghanistan for another decade. , “he added.
Michael McCaul, the leading Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, called Afghanistan’s retirement at the start of Monday’s trial an ‘insignificant epic disaster’ and warned that many Afghans were now at risk of being executed by the Taliban. to become. He said the US would be very limited in the fight against the terrorist threat in the country.
“We have no eyes or ears on the ground. “We have lost intelligence in the region,” McCaul said. Blinken responded that he believes the US can deal with terrorism “effectively” without ‘boots on the ground’.
“We have definitely lost some capacity because we did not have the boots in Afghanistan, but we have ways to compensate for that, and we are working very actively on that,” Blinken said.
Officials from the Biden administration said their withdrawal management options were limited by former President Donald Trump’s own agreement with the Taliban, which originally set a May 1 date. President Joe Biden later extended it to 31 August.
Brad Sherman, a Democrat in California, asked Blinken how ‘carefully’ the Trump administration’s planning for the military retreat was, to which Blinken replied, “We inherited a deadline. We did not inherit a plan. ”
The Biden administration has been heavily criticized for misreading the situation on the ground. Afghanistan before its withdrawal last month, and to plan for the exit before 31 August, even though the Taliban had conquered the most important cities in the country and taken control of Kabul.
While thousands of people trying to flee the country surrounded the Hamid Karzai International Airport in the last days of the US military presence, a terrorist attack at the gates of the airport killed many people, including Afghan civilians and 13 members of the US Army.
Meanwhile, thousands of vulnerable Afghans helped coalition forces during the 20-year conflict left behind, as well as up to 200 Americans, some of whom live in the country.
“We will help Americans – and Afghans with whom we have a special commitment – to leave Afghanistan if they so choose, just as in other countries where we have evacuated our embassies and left hundreds or even thousands of Americans behind – for example in Libya, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen and Somalia. There is no deadline for this mission, “said Blinken.
He said the United States would continue to provide humanitarian aid to the country, although the Taliban, which is under US sanctions, now controls Afghanistan. “In line with sanctions, this aid will not flow through the government, but rather through independent organizations such as NGOs and UN agencies.”
Democrats mostly support Blinken’s defense. After Joe Wilson, a Republican from South Carolina, called on Blinken to resign, Gerry Connolly, a Democrat from Virginia, said, “What we hear on the other side of the aisle is unfortunate.” a salad mix of selective facts – and a lot of memory loss in the salad dressing ”.