The top Republican on the House Foreign Relations Committee on Sunday said President Biden will have “blood on his hands” over the withdrawal of the US military from Afghanistan — as Taliban fighters entered Kabul and American troops raced to evacuate staffers from the US Embassy.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said the US troop pullout has been “an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions.
“This is going to be a stain on this president and his presidency. And I think he’s going to have blood on his hands from what they did,” McCaul said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” referring to the Biden administration.
“They totally blew this one, they completely underestimated the strength of the Taliban,” he told host Jake Tapper.
McCaul said members of the administration ignored warnings from the intelligence community about Afghanistan and instead “paint this rosy picture” about peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government in Doha, Qatar, delivering a “rabbit out of the hat” in the 11th hour.
“But that didn’t happen. And now they’re sending 5,000 troops in to try to save our embassy personnel,” he said of White House officials.
McCaul said the departure of the US military from Afghanistan will be “worse” than the US pullout from Saigon in Vietnam in 1975, disputing Biden’s claims from early July that American personnel would not be lifted off the roof of the embassy.
One of the Vietnam War’s most famous photos captured a helicopter frantically airlifting people from the top of the US embassy in Saigon as the city completely fell to the enemy.
“When they raise the black flag of the Taliban over our embassy, think about that visual,” McCaul said, referring to Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul.
But Secretary of State Antony Blinken rejected comparisons between Kabul and Saigon and laid the blame for the Taliban’s rapid advance at the feet of the Afghan security forces, which received billions of dollars and extensive training and military equipment from the US over the course of the 20-year war there.
“Remember, this is not Saigon. We went to Afghanistan 20 years ago with one mission. And that mission was to deal with the folks who attacked us on 9/11,” Blinken said on CNN.
“And we have succeeded in that mission,” the Biden official insisted. “The objective that we set, bringing those who attacked us to justice, making sure that they couldn’t attack us again from Afghanistan, we have succeeded in that mission.
“And, in fact, we succeeded a while ago. And, at the same time, remaining in Afghanistan for another one, five, 10 years is not in the national interest,” Blinken added.
Still, he acknowledged that the Taliban overran the Afghan forces faster than the administration had expected.
“But at the same time, we had invested over four administrations billions of dollars, along with the international community, in the Afghan security and defense forces, building a modern military with the most sophisticated equipment, 300,000-forces strong, with an air force that the Taliban didn’t have,” Blinken said.
“And the fact of the matter is, we have seen that that force has been unable to defend the country. And that has happened more quickly than we anticipated,” he said.
Blinken rejected the argument that the withdrawal of US forces emboldened the Taliban.
“The idea that the status quo could have been maintained by keeping our forces there, I think, is simply wrong,” he said.
“The fact of the matter is, had the president decided to keep forces in Afghanistan beyond May 1, attacks would have resumed on our forces,” Blinken said, referring to the deadline negotiated between the Trump administration and the Taliban.
Biden accelerated that timetable to Aug. 31.
Blinken was also asked about the US appealing to the Taliban to allow the evacuation of the embassy in Kabul.
“We haven’t asked the Taliban for anything. We’ve told the Taliban that if they interfere with our personnel, with our operations as we’re proceeding with this draw-down, there will be a swift and decisive response,” he said.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the previous Trump administration’s talks with the Taliban.
“Chris, we never trusted the Taliban,” Pompeo insisted to host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”
“You can ask them yourselves. We made abundantly clear: If they did not live up to that piece of paper, to the words that they had put on the ground, we weren’t going to allow them to just walk away from any deal that they struck. We were going to go crush them.”
Pompeo said Biden completely dropped the ball.
“It looks like the Biden demonstration has just failed in its execution of its own plan. It looks like they are now trying to get folks out,” Pompeo said.
“I hope we get these folks out. I hope [the US] will bring the airpower. They should go crush these Taliban who are surrounding Kabul. We can do it with American airpower,” he said.
“We should put pressure on them. We should inflict cost and pain on them. We shouldn’t be begging them to spare the lives of Americans. We should be imposing costs on the Taliban until they allow us to execute our plan in Afghanistan,” Pompeo said.