Washington – Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday sought to block bipartisan congressional criticism of the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, as new intelligence projections warned that al-Qaeda may soon again be involved in planning attacks on the United States by Afghans. Earth can be used.
This time Blinken had mixed results in his attempt to face a second day of tough congressional inquiries from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The day before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, he was attacked by Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike for his handling of the administration’s preparation and pullout.
Even lawmakers sympathetic to President Joe Biden’s decision to end America’s longest-running war by withdrawing from Afghanistan after 20 years have stoked large numbers of Americans, green card holders and those at risk. expressed dismay and concern about the Afghans, who were left behind in the chaotic and hasty evacuation. Kabul.
And, as Blinken testified to the terrorist attacks that led to the US invasion of Afghanistan, just three days after the 20th anniversary of September 11, 2001, intelligence officials presented a vague assessment that al-Qaeda was threatening the US. to use Afghan territory. within one to two years.
“The execution of America’s withdrawal was clearly and fatally flawed,” said committee chairman Sen. Bob Menendez, DN.J., who has generally been supportive of Biden’s foreign policy, but with many aspects of it, including Afghanistan. issue has been raised.
“This committee looks forward to receiving a full explanation of the decisions of this Administration on Afghanistan since coming into office last January,” he said. “There must be accountability.”
“The withdrawal was a disappointing failure,” said Sen. Jim Riske of Idaho, the top Republican on the committee. He and nearly all of his Republican allies accused the administration of “incompetence”, which damaged the international credibility of the United States, leading to a deadly attack on US troops and Afghan civilians at Kabul airport and leaving many in the lurch. .
“There just isn’t enough lipstick in the world to put on this pig to make it look different from what it really is,” Risk said.
As he did at an often controversial hearing in the House on Monday, Blinken tried to deflect the criticism, saying the administration had done its best under extremely trying and chaotic circumstances.
Blinken again blamed the Trump administration for the February 2020 peace deal with the Taliban, which he said had Biden’s hands tied, as well as the rapid and unexpected collapse of the Afghan government and security forces on August 15. Acquisition took place.
related: US forces leave Afghanistan; many americans live
“Even the most pessimistic assessment did not predict that government forces in Kabul would collapse while US forces would remain,” he said. “They were focused on what would happen once the United States withdrew since September.”
Blinken said the administration would hold the Taliban, who hosted and protected Osama bin Laden and top members of his al-Qaeda network as they plotted the 9/11 attacks, for their promise to re-terrorize Afghanistan. shall not be allowed to be used as a basis for attack.
But as he said, US intelligence officials said al-Qaeda may be only 12 to 24 months away from reorganizing itself in Afghanistan to pose a significant threat to the United States.
Lieutenant General Scott Barrier, who leads the Defense Intelligence Agency, speculated this while speaking at the Intelligence and National Security Summit. Meanwhile, David Cohen, deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said the US had already detected “some signs of some possible movement of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Experts have long said that the Taliban still have links to al-Qaeda, which took refuge in Afghanistan before 9/11. Although Blinken was not directly asked about the intelligence assessment, he said the Taliban had not completely severed its ties with the group.
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, an ardent opponent of many Biden policies, called the withdrawal “the worst foreign policy catastrophe in a generation” and accused the administration of being nave in hoping to deliver on its promises of restraint to the Taliban. “They don’t want to be welcomed into a community of civilized nations,” he said.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. demanded to know how inaccurate intelligence was about the fall of the Afghan government. He suggested not only that the wrong people were in charge of assessing the situation, but that the policy was inconsistent and made the US vulnerable to adversaries.
related: Afghanistan war ends as last US plane leaves Kabul
“It was a failure of policy and planning,” said Rubio, another frequent critic of Biden. “I think China and Russia and Iran, they look at this failed comeback and they see it as incompetence that they think they might be able to exploit.”
Heavy criticism of the State Department for not doing enough and not taking enough action to get people out of the country after the Taliban took control of Kabul before the completion of the US withdrawal in August, tightening its grip on the country happened. 30.
Blinken defends return and end America’s longest war As for “the right thing to do” after 20 years. And, he said, the US and its allies have managed to evacuate about 124,000 people despite serious difficulties.
“The evacuation by our diplomats, military and intelligence professionals was an extraordinary effort – under the most difficult circumstances imaginable,” he said.
However, some Democrats were also adamant.
Sen. Jean Shaheen of New Hampshire, the only woman on the committee who has long fought for America to protect the progress made by Afghan women and girls, expressed her condolences over the current situation and said that the presidents of both sides and The MPs shared the blame for this. Situation.
“Let’s stop with the blaming hypocrisy, there are too many people to blame and we all share in this,” he said in a scathing dig at former President Donald Trump and his second secretary of state. Mike Pompeo, who negotiated a peace deal with the Taliban in 2020 separate from the Afghan government, without any assurances that minority rights would be respected.
“I want to know where was the outrage when they were giving rights to women and girls,” Shaheen said.
In response, Blinken said he would soon appoint a senior official to oversee US policy towards Afghan women and girls.
Associated Press writer Noman Merchant contributed to this report.