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Blinken faces criticism in US Senate over Afghanistan | Conflict News

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US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken faced anger and bipartisan criticism on Tuesday from senators unhappy with the Biden administration’s handling of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The execution of the US withdrawal was clearly and fatally flawed, Senator Bob Menendez, Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Blinken at a committee hearing.

Menendez said the committee would pursue a full explanation of the administration’s decisions regarding Afghanistan since US President Joe Biden took office in January.

There must be accountability, said Menendez, who argued that the Biden administration clearly failed to achieve its stated goal of leaving a lasting political arrangement in Afghanistan.

Almost 20 years after invading Afghanistan in 2001 following the Al Qaeda attacks of September 11, the US military completed its withdrawal from the country on August 30.

Senator Bob Menendez questioned Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday [Drew Angerer/Pool via Reuters]

The US evacuation of Kabul after the Taliban took control of the Afghan capital was marred by chaotic scenes as thousands of Afghans converged on the city’s airport, desperate to leave the country amid the fears of potential retaliation from the group.

At least 175 people, including 13 US servicemen, were killed at Kabul airport in a suicide bombing attack claimed by ISIS in Khorasan province, ISKP (ISIS-K).

Afghanistan is currently facing a humanitarian crisis as food and medicine supplies become scarce and millions of people are at risk.

Senator James Risch, the top Republican on the Senate panel, called the US withdrawal a dismal failure and accused the Biden administration of incompetence.

One of the things we need to get to the bottom of is, who is responsible for this? Who made the decisions? said Risch, who had been chairman of the committee when former President Donald Trump negotiated the US withdrawal agreement with the Taliban in 2020.

While I supported a responsible end to the war in Afghanistan, no American thinks we should have left this way. America can’t end a war just by walking away, Risch said.

Soldiers called to testify

The critical tone of the Senate hearing portends trouble for the Biden administration as it seeks to recover from a difficult month in which presidential poll numbers have plummeted.

He also highlights the administration’s future challenges in negotiations with the Taliban, as well as its efforts to manage the situation in Afghanistan with US allies.

On Tuesday, Menendez said he intended to call US military officials to testify before the committee and expressed disappointment that US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin refused to appear at the hearing.

A full account of the US response to this crisis is not complete without the Pentagon, especially when it comes to understanding the complete collapse of the US-formed and funded Afghan army, said Menendez.

He also threatened to issue subpoenas to witnesses and withhold Senate confirmation of Defense Department political candidates. During 20 years of US engagement in Afghanistan, Congress has been misled, Menendez said.

Blinken faced tougher questions from several members of the Senate committee, including Senator Rand Paul, who asked whether the US military mistakenly targeted an aid worker in a drone attack on August 29. .

Blinken was unable to say whether the target was an aid worker pending the results of a US investigation.

The drone attack killed 10 Ahmadi and Nejrabi family members, aged two to 40. They were innocent and helpless children. Aimal Ahmadi, whose nieces and nephews were among those killed, told Al Jazeera last month about the majority of the victims.

I see these photos of these beautiful children who were killed in the attack, Paul said. You can’t have an investigation after killing people, he said. You have an investigation before you kill people.

Senator Bill Hagerty, a Republican, suggested Blinken should step down. Here we have a very important failure, a failure of global proportion, he said.

Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat and political ally of President Joe Biden, also asked Blinken why the administration had not been better prepared for a collapse of the US-backed government in Kabul.

Contingency planning for something that was a possibility wasn’t all it should have been, Kaine said.

US diplomats in Afghanistan warned Blinken in a secret cable in July of a potential fall of the Afghan government in Kabul, according to a Wall Street Journal article.

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