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Blinken defends Afghan withdrawal at testy U.S. congressional hearing

Sports & GeneralSep 13, 2021 11:42PM ET
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© Reuters. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken gives remarks during a 9/11 commemoration event to mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, at the State Department in Washington, U.S., September 10, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool

By Patricia Zengerle and Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Secretary of State Antony Blinken beat back criticism of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan on Monday at a contentious congressional hearing where at least two Republicans called on him to resign.

In five hours of often testy exchanges with lawmakers, Blinken defended President Joe Biden's decision to pull out and pushed back on accusations that the State Department should have done more to help Americans and at-risk Afghans to be evacuated, blaming the previous administration for lacking a plan.

He repeatedly noted that Republican former President Donald Trump had negotiated the withdrawal agreement with the Taliban, and said Biden's administration could not renegotiate because of threats from the group to resume killing Americans.

"There's no evidence that staying longer would have made the Afghan security forces or the Afghan government any more resilient or self-sustaining," Blinken said.

"We inherited a deadline. We did not inherit a plan," Blinken said, referring to the Trump administration's agreement to remove all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by May 1.

Members of Congress - Biden's Democrats as well as opposition Republicans - have pledged to investigate since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan last month after a rapid advance.

Blinken appeared on Monday before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee and was to testify on Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the first Biden administration official to testify publicly to lawmakers since the Islamist militant group's takeover.

Fireworks had been expected, given the amount of finger-pointing over how the two-decade-long war ended. Many Republicans, particularly those closely allied to Trump, interrupted or even shouted over Blinken during the House hearing, a departure for a committee known for bipartisan cooperation.

Others offered harsh criticism.

"The American people don't like to lose, especially not to the terrorists. But this is exactly what has happened," said Representative Michael McCaul, the panel's top Republican.

McCaul asked why assets like the Bagram Air Base were not maintained and why the administration had not reached counterterrorism agreements with neighboring countries.

"This is a national security threat as China moves in. For all I know they make take over Bagram," McCaul said.

Blinken said the United States was actively working to identify threats.

MANY QUESTIONS

Lawmakers asked a long list of questions about the rapid collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan government and scramble to evacuate 124,000 people.

Democrats expressed concern about Americans and at-risk Afghans who still wish to leave, but backed the withdrawal as necessary, if painful. "I would welcome hearing what exactly a smooth withdrawal from a messy chaotic 20-year war looks like," said Representative Gregory Meeks, the committee's chairman.

Blinken praised the evacuation as "a heroic effort." He pledged that the United States will continue to support humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, but through non-governmental organizations and U.N. agencies, not the Taliban.

Afghanistan is at risk of running out of food as it faces a terrible drought in addition to political upheaval. "We need to do everything we can to make sure the people of Afghanistan don't suffer any more than is already the case," Blinken said.

He said he had not spoken personally to members of the Taliban leadership. "Any legitimacy that they may seek from the international community ... is going to be contingent on their actions," he said.

Blinken said he would name a senior State Department official to focus on support for Afghan women, girls and minorities.

Republicans grilled Blinken about what happened at Kabul's airport during the evacuation ahead of the administration's Aug. 31 deadline to leave. Thirteen U.S. troops and dozens of Afghans were killed in a suicide bombing amid the chaos.

Democrats said they wanted to address not just the seven months Biden was president before Kabul fell but all 20 years of U.S. involvement in the country - under presidents from both parties.

A U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban in 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks masterminded by al Qaeda leaders based in Afghanistan.

Blinken defends Afghan withdrawal at testy U.S. congressional hearing
 

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Comments (13)
Necleus Electron
Necleus Electron Sep 14, 2021 1:49AM ET
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load of bs and superficial talk
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi Sep 14, 2021 1:49AM ET
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"Republican former President Donald Trump had negotiated the withdrawal agreement with the Taliban"  & "There's no evidence that staying longer would have made the Afghan security forces or the Afghan government any more resilient or self-sustaining,"  - are you disputing these two statements?
Eudon Hickey
Eudon Hickey Sep 14, 2021 1:12AM ET
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If that was the best he could do, the world really doesnt want to see your worst
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi Sep 14, 2021 1:12AM ET
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"Republican former President Donald Trump had negotiated the withdrawal agreement with the Taliban"  & "There's no evidence that staying longer would have made the Afghan security forces or the Afghan government any more resilient or self-sustaining,"  -- was he wrong saying this?
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun Sep 13, 2021 10:51PM ET
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Unqualify for the job is Blinking all the time
Eudon Hickey
Eudon Hickey Sep 13, 2021 10:51PM ET
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Every single person in the Biden admin is unqualified.
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi Sep 13, 2021 10:51PM ET
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Eudon Hickey  yes, no one in the Biden admin is as qualified as President Orange in negotiating such an awesome deal with the Taliban and training the Afgan Army, Art of the Deal indeed
Keith Wilson
Keith Wilson Sep 13, 2021 8:47PM ET
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Lol..."we inherited a plan" What a pike of BS. To think the USA cowered under an agreement with the Taliban is beyond amazing to me. I thought Biden stood up to cornpop?
Benjamin McIntire
Benjamin McIntire Sep 13, 2021 8:47PM ET
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It was Trumps plan, negotiated with Taliban. Republicans love the Taliban else why would they negotiate a deal
Felipe Daniel
Felipe Daniel Sep 13, 2021 8:47PM ET
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Benjamin McIntire Why couldnt they adjust it?
jimmy obama
jimmy obama Sep 13, 2021 7:06PM ET
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the tasty questions were asked about his smmons to meet fbi regarding bidens son laptop and biden ongoing family corruption. caught binken and dems flat footed
palmer gossett
palmer gossett Sep 13, 2021 7:06PM ET
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That was awesome. Wish he cracked
Investing Man
Investing Man Sep 13, 2021 6:04PM ET
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Let those ancient persians fight light they have for thousands of years. If they manage to gain the strength they had theyll set their eyes on china for their resources
tom paj
tom paj Sep 13, 2021 6:04PM ET
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Persians???
tom paj
tom paj Sep 13, 2021 6:04PM ET
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What country are you talking about?
Adrian White
Adrian White Sep 13, 2021 6:04PM ET
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Persia was what is now Iran. Not Afghanistan.
david rosenblum
david rosenblum Sep 13, 2021 4:48PM ET
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this was as if the Captain of the Titanic told the crew to abandon ship before the passengers.
tom paj
tom paj Sep 13, 2021 4:48PM ET
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The story of Italian Concordia ferry...
Ethel Basset
Ethel Basset Sep 13, 2021 4:46PM ET
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A total disaster!
William Bai
William Bai Sep 13, 2021 4:24PM ET
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The main problem is why didn’t Biden wait US citizens and Afghan partners run before withdrawal Army
Catholic Man
CatholicMan Sep 13, 2021 2:02PM ET
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Funny how tracing who is at fault alway ends up at democrats.
Chris Cummins
Chris Cummins Sep 13, 2021 2:02PM ET
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I think that may show your bias. But don't think too much about it, just keep spewing your knowledge.
palmer gossett
palmer gossett Sep 13, 2021 2:02PM ET
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Why would anyone with a brain still defend this weak cowardly president and his inept administration
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi Sep 13, 2021 2:02PM ET
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palmer gossett  no one here is defending Trump, even the Trumpsters are pretending Trump had nothing to do with the Taliban peace deal
Felipe Daniel
Felipe Daniel Sep 13, 2021 12:45PM ET
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Biden administration can never admit their errors sign of bad leadership. Biden did not have to leave billions in weapons for the Taliban that was a choice of bad leadership.
Benjamin McIntire
Benjamin McIntire Sep 13, 2021 12:45PM ET
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Been arming them since forever actually.
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi Sep 13, 2021 12:45PM ET
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Ronald Reagan started arming the Afgans 40 years ago......you don't think some of those weapons ended up in Talibans' hands?  Nah, can't be, republican presidents would never do anything silly like that........
Felipe Daniel
Felipe Daniel Sep 13, 2021 12:45PM ET
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Benjamin McIntire You are biased. Biden pullout of Afghanistan was bad. You cannot say it was Trump plan because Biden admin could have changed it just a lazy excuse.
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi Sep 13, 2021 12:45PM ET
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Felipe Daniel  "Biden pullout of Afghanistan was bad. You cannot say it was Trump plan"  -- the treaty Pompeo negotiated and Trump signed (without Afgan govt consent) specifically stated that US and Allied troops will have to withdraw within 14 months of the signing and release of 5000 taliban prisoners......funny now all of the sudden that's not Trump's plan, yeah OK
Joseph Armour
Joseph Armour Sep 13, 2021 10:23AM ET
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I think it's shameful how our manipulation and military *****of other countries doesn't work out the way our super rich want. Maybe we should copy Russia and China. They seem to be better at it.
Joseph Armour
Joseph Armour Sep 13, 2021 10:23AM ET
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its D o m - in nation
Catholic Man
CatholicMan Sep 13, 2021 10:23AM ET
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Silly comment.
Joseph Armour
Joseph Armour Sep 13, 2021 10:23AM ET
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I'm glad you were able to figure that out. Was it that obvious though?
Limin Tandiono
Limin Tandiono Sep 13, 2021 9:57AM ET
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Hail USA
 
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