The future appears uncertain for Afghanistan following its takeover by the Taliban as US-led forces withdrew from the country after 20 years of occupation. As other nations continue to evacuate their citizens, the Central Asian country has been struck by political and humanitarian crises.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Grills Blinken Over 'Fatally Flawed' Afghanistan Withdrawal
21:06 GMT 14.09.2021 (Updated: 22:22 GMT 14.09.2021)
© REUTERS / POOLU.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinkin speaks next to Qatar's Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani at Department of State in Washington, D.C., U.S., July 22, 2021.
© REUTERS / POOL
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has been sent to the US Capitol to answer for the Biden administration’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Blinken faces sharp criticism from Republicans, but has adamantly defended the handling of the troop pullout.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has spent the past two days questioning the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. A cohort of largely Republican lawmakers spent Monday grilling Blinken, but the Committee’s head, Bob Menendez (D-NJ), was equally as critical as his colleagues across the aisle.
Menendez blasted the withdrawal procedures during the day's testimony, telling Blinken that the steps taken to remove soldiers "was clearly and fatally flawed." He further went on to threaten that he would subpoena Biden officials who refused to testify.
Blinken has steadfastly defended the administration’s withdrawal and attempted to ease concerns over the US leaving $80 billion worth of military technology, noting that none of the hardware is operable or provide a strategic threat to the US.
However, it's worth noting that the abandoned technology and equipment can be sold for pieces, effectively providing the Taliban* with a new revenue stream.
Blinken refused to produce an internal state department memo from July that warned of the collapse of the Afghan government following the exit of US troops. The dissent memo went directly to Blinken as a Taliban offensive was already sweeping through the country. Blinken defended his decision to keep it from the committee, claiming that dissent cables are "only to be shared with senior officials in the department."
At the heart of Blinken’s defense was how the Biden White House inherited the withdrawal from the Trump administration, as it was former US President Donald Trump who initiated negotiations with the Taliban for nine rounds over 18 months.
A peace deal was finally struck on February 29, 2020, with the basic agreement being that the US would withdraw all troops from Afghanistan, and in return, the Taliban would not allow Afghanistan to become a haven for terrorist groups. It was also outlined that the Taliban would start peace talks with the Afghan government.
Although the Trump administration began withdrawing troops from the war-torn nation, some 3,500 soldiers still remained by the start of the US President Joe Biden's first term in office. Touching on the situation Biden found himself, Blinken told lawmakers that the Biden administration was left with one of two options: continue to conduct the withdrawal as it played out, or send more troops in and effectively tear up the previous agreement.
After initially pushing back a withdrawal date, the US officially closed its near 20-year occupation of Afghanistan on August 31 after weeks' worth of chaotic withdrawal measures were implemented. However, while the US may no longer have boots on the ground, Biden has indicated that a "over the horizon" counterterrorism strategy is in the works.
*The Taliban is an organisation banned in Russia and other countries