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Blinken blames Trump as he defends disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan

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Blinken said the Biden administration was handcuffed by Trump’s deal with the Taliban, which partially reduced the US troop presence to 2,500 by the time Biden took office. With the Taliban continuing their relentless military campaign regardless of this deal, Blinken said, Biden was immediately faced with the choice of either ending the war or escalating it.

Had [Biden] failed to follow through on the pledge of his predecessors, attacks against our forces and those of our allies would have resumed and the Taliban’s national assault on major cities in Afghanistan would have begun, Blinken said.

Several Democratic-led congressional committees are already investigating the withdrawal, a dynamic that threatens to complicate Bidens’ efforts to sell the much-needed withdrawal and the evacuation operation that followed, which resulted in the airlift of more than 120,000 people.

As Republicans have focused on the recent events leading up to the fall of Kabul, Democrats have sought to broaden the scope of the hearing to include a review of mistakes made under presidents of both parties for nearly two decades. .

We see domestic policy injected into foreign policy, Foreign President Gregory Meeks (DN.Y.) said of Republicans’ criticism of the withdrawal of the Biden administrations in Afghanistan. Meeks added that the committee would also hear from officials from the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations, as part of the panel review.

The State Department has previously acknowledged that thousands of Afghan allies who applied for special immigrant visas were left behind, in addition to several hundred Americans, when the last US troops left Afghanistan on August 31. (Some of those U.S. citizens have since been evacuated from the country.)

Our position on the world stage has been significantly diminished, said Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee. He accused Blinken of betraying these Afghan allies.

Lawmakers on both sides had criticized the Biden administration for failing to begin earlier evacuations of these vulnerable Afghans, especially SIV claimants and their families. Many of them served as translators and interpreters for the US military throughout the war.

The delay forced a scramble within the US government, with Biden sending more than 5,000 troops to secure Kabul’s main airport, where the US-led evacuation mission was located.

Blinken once again blamed the Trump administration, arguing that Biden inherited a broken SIV program that included a backlog of 17,000 visas.

There had not been a single interview with an SIV candidate in Kabul in nine months, dating back to March 2020, Blinken said. The program was essentially at an impasse.

Responding to criticism from Republicans about U.S. citizens being left behind in Afghanistan, Blinken said U.S. diplomatic staff began urging Americans to leave the country as early as March. Still, Biden admitted last month that it had unfolded faster than expected, but argued that the rapid collapse of the Afghan government showed it was the right decision to leave Afghanistan.

There is no evidence that staying longer would have made the Afghan security forces or the Afghan government more resilient or more self-reliant, Blinken said. If 20 years and hundreds of billions of dollars in support, equipment and training weren’t enough, why another year, or five or ten, would make a difference?

Blinken then addressed the US counterterrorism strategy for Afghanistan, a major blind spot for lawmakers as officials warn of the possibility of the country once again becoming a safe haven for terrorist groups like Al Qaeda. Blinken said the United States maintains so-called counterterrorism capabilities on the horizon, but acknowledged that these are limited without boots or bases on the ground.

We will remain hyper-vigilant in the face of any re-emergence of a threat from al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, added Blinken.

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