Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday sought to parry bipartisan congressional criticism of the Biden administration’s Afghanistan withdrawal, as new intelligence estimates warned that al-Qaeda could soon again use Afghan soil to plot attacks on the United States.
Blinken was unable to withstand a second day’s tough congressional questioning by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
A day earlier before the House Foreign Affairs CommitteeBlinken was attacked by both Republican lawmakers and Democrats over his handling of the withdrawal and preparations.
Even those who supported President Joe Biden’s decision after 20 years to end America’s longest-running conflict by pulling out from Afghanistan, expressed dismay and concern at the large number of Americans, green-card holders, and at-risk Afghans that were left behind during the chaotic and hasty evacuation.
Blinken, who testified only three days after the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 that led to the U.S. invasion, said that intelligence officials had made a grim assessment that al-Qaeda could use Afghan territory as a threat to America within one or two years.
Senator Bob Menendez (D.New Jersey), the chairman of the committee, stated that “the U.S. withdrawal was clearly as fatally flawed.” Although he has been generally supportive of Biden’s foreign policy, he has expressed concern about several aspects of it, including Afghanistan.
Menendez stated that the committee would like to be given a complete explanation of the administration’s decision on Afghanistan since January last year. “There needs to be accountability.”
Senator Jim Risch, Idaho’s top Republican, stated that “the withdrawal was a dismal fail.”
He, along with nearly all his Republican colleagues, accused the administration in implacable behavior that led to the deadly attack on U.S. troops at Kabul’s airport. This resulted in many Americans being left in the dust.
Blinken attempted to deflect criticism at Monday’s contentious hearing in Congress and said that the administration had done its best under very difficult and chaotic circumstances.
Blinken blamed Trump for the February 2020 Taliban peace agreement, which he claimed had tied Biden’s hand, and the sudden and unexpected collapse of Afghanistan’s government and security forces that led the Taliban takeover of Aug. 15.
Blinken stated, “Even the most pessimistic assessment did not predict that Kabul government forces would collapse while U.S. troops remained.” They were focused on what would occur after the United States retreated, starting in September.
Blinken stated that the administration would keep the Taliban, who hosted and protected Osama Bin Laden and other top members of his al-Qaeda network during the 9/11 attacks, to their promise not to allow Afghanistan to become a new terrorist base.
Experts know that the Taliban has ties to al-Qaeda. The Taliban took refuge in Afghanistan before 9/11. Blinken said that the Taliban still had ties to al-Qaeda, even though he was not directly asked about intelligence assessments.
The State Department has been heavily criticised by both sides for not being able to quickly and adequately evacuate the people of Afghanistan after the Taliban seized control of Kabul. This cemented its hold over the country, which was a result of the U.S. withdrawing from the country on August 30th.
After 20 years, Blinken said that the withdrawal and ending America’s longest-running conflict was “the right thing” to do.
This story was originally published by News. Additional reporting by the Associated Press.