Committee to grill Antony Blinken on Afghanistan troop withdrawal

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Committee to grill Antony Blinken on Afghanistan troop withdrawal

Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee are slated to grill Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the chaotic withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan on Monday as the administration faces bipartisan criticism over its handling of the exit.

President Biden and top administration officials have pinned blame for the speedy rise of the Taliban on the Afghan government, and called the withdrawal an “extraordinary success.” However, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in both chambers are demanding answers on an array of issues, ranging from the number of Americans and allies left in the country, to potential national security repercussions following the exit.

GOP members are expected to call on the Biden administration to accept responsibility for the botched end to America’s longest war, requesting information on weapons that were abandoned and fell into the hands of the Taliban and plans to vacate the remaining Americans left in the country.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be called before the House Committee on Homeland Security to answer questions about the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be called before the House Committee on Homeland Security to answer questions about the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Evelyn Hockstein/Pool via AP
Afghan civilians walk along an under-construction road in Kabul with a banner of Afghan commander Ahmad Shah Massoud attached to a building.
Afghan civilians walk along an under-construction road in Kabul with a banner of Afghan commander Ahmad Shah Massoud attached to a building.
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images
Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, commander of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division was the last American soldier to board a cargo plane leaving Afghanistan.
Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, commander of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division was the last American soldier to board a cargo plane leaving Afghanistan.
Master Sgt. Alexander Burnett/U.S. Army via AP

Democrats’ questions are expected to include inquiries ranging over multiple administrations’ dealings with Afghanistan.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the top Republican on the panel, has indicated he plans on inquiring about why the Bagram Air Force base was abandoned before the evacuation was completed and raise concerns about the challenges in intelligence gathering abilities for Russia, China and Iran after giving up the military position in the country.

“Why didn’t he listen to the intelligence community warnings since April and May of this last year telling us, telling me, that the Taliban was going to take over, the Afghan army was going to fall and the embassy would be in trouble,” he said during an appearance on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures.

“Instead they listened to the special envoy, this rosy dream they were somehow going to negotiate a last-minute deal with the Taliban was absolutely fantasy world. It was like a Yale faculty lounge rather than a war on the ground.”

Family members of  US Marine Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo  who was killed when two suicide bombers detonated inside Kabul's airport.
Family members mourn US Marine Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo — who was killed when a suicide bomber detonated inside Kabul’s airport.
EPA/JONATHAN WIGGS
The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) alliance parade around Kabul waving the Taliban flag in celebration.
The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) alliance parade around Kabul waving the Taliban flag in celebration.
OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP via Getty Images

Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX), who also sits on the committee, said he has questions as to why the administration “falsely claimed credit for the evacuation of my constituents” — after, as he claims, he independently coordinated the evacuation of Americans in the war-torn country.

“Secretary Blinken needs to explain to our committee what he was thinking when he left hundreds of Americans to fend for themselves against the Taliban and ISIS. He also owes me an explanation as to why State falsely claimed credit for the evacuation of my constituents,” he told The Post in a statement.  

“I facilitated the escape of these American citizens with a team of patriotic veterans on the ground because the State Department proved to be utterly useless. I’m disgusted that State wanted to use this family to make it seem like they had a plan to get Americans out of Afghanistan when in fact Blinken had left them to be Taliban hostages.”

Hundreds of Afghans attempted to catch a ride on a departing plane as the Taliban regained control of Kabul.
Hundreds of Afghans attempted to catch a ride on a departing plane as the Taliban regained control of Kabul.
AP Photo
Afghans gather on a roadside near the military part of the airport in Kabul on August 20, 2021, hoping to flee from the country.
Afghans gather on a roadside near the military part of the airport in Kabul on August 20, 2021, hoping to flee from the country.
WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images

The Monday afternoon hearing is the first of two hearings Blinken is slated to testify before this week, with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee slated to hold its hearing on Tuesday.

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