Secretary of State Antony Blinken is facing fire from critics circulating what they say was a prophetic warning from the late Sen. John McCain that Bliken was “dangerous,” including for wanting to remove US troops from Afghanistan.
McCain said in 2014 that Blinken, who has largely been missing from public view since the Taliban retook Afghanistan, was wrong to advocate a US withdrawal.
The top foreign policy hawk, who died in 2018, argued that the US should leave “a few thousand” troops to prevent a Taliban takeover.
The Taliban’s rapid reconquest of Afghanistan triggered a chaotic rescue operation at Kabul’s airport, drawing bipartisan alarm at the perceived lack of US preparation. An unknown number of US citizens and former US military employees are stranded in the Afghan capital, unable to reach the airport.
“This individual has actually been dangerous to America and to the young men and women who are fighting [for] and serving it.” McCain said of Blinken, slamming his policies as “at worst anti-strategic.”
“Mr. Blinken said, ‘We’ve been vey clear. We’ve been consistent. The war will be concluded by the end of 2014. we have a timetable and that timetable will not change.’ This is why I’m so worried about him being in the position that he’s in. Because if they stick to that timetable, I’m telling my colleagues that we will see the replay of Iraq all over again. We must leave a stabilizing force behind of a few thousand troops.”
McCain was referring to the Islamic State terror group overrunning much of Iraq after US troops withdrew in 2011 and arguing that the Taliban would see similar success in Afghanistan.
Blinken was confirmed in 2015 over McCain’s objections as deputy secretary of state. Then-President Barack Obama didn’t stick to the 2014 timeframe and US troops remained in Afghanistan nearly seven more years.
Larry Elder, the radio host and Republican gubernatorial candidate in California, was among the high-profile conservatives who circulated McCain’s condemnation of Blinken.
“McCain warned in 2014 that Biden’s guy Blinken shouldn’t be anywhere near Afghanistan or in a decision-making role. McCain saw it coming,” wrote Hudson Institute senior fellow Michael Pregent,
The decision to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan had broad bipartisan support and also bipartisan opposition. This year’s pullout was set in motion by former President Donald Trump, who has criticized Biden’s execution of the plan.
Former Trump White House aide Stephen Miller tweeted Thursday that Blinken and Biden “blithely surrendered all US leverage in your butchered, bungled, blundering withdrawal: our airbase, our military equipment and many thousands of Americans trapped behind Taliban lines. You have disgraced yourself and embarrassed your country.”
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) said Thursday, “The secretary of the state owes the American people a lot of explanations for this. Now, of course, the buck stops with Biden. Biden made all these decisions and it’s absolutely reprehensible. But the State Department really botched this.”
Blinken has made few public appearances since the stunning fall of the Afghan government over the weekend.
In a Sunday interview on CNN, Blinken defended the State Department’s performance, saying “we would have been back at war with the Taliban” if there was no pullout this year.
“We were prepared, the president was prepared, for any contingency,” he insisted.
“This is manifestly not Saigon,” Blinken told ABC News on Sunday. “We went into Afghanistan 20 years ago with one mission in mind, and that was to deal with the people who attacked us on 9/11, and that mission has been successful.”
Ned Price, the top State Department spokesman, defended Blinken on Thursday when asked about his lack of public engagement.
“You heard from him on Sunday. You have heard — and seeing that he has been working the phones with his counterparts. He has been at the White House the past few days now. He was just there this morning,” Price said.
“He’s been meeting regularly with the president. He’s been regularly meeting with the broader national security team. He’s been deeply engaged on this and I expect you’ll have an opportunity to hear from again soon.”
Blinken isn’t the only member of the Biden administration to keep a low profile amid scenes of chaos in Kabul. Vice President Kamala Harris, who previously boasted she was the last person consulted on Biden’s April decision to remove troops, also has been conspicuously missing from public view. Biden also had no public events Thursday.
Additional reporting by Mark Moore