Blinken braces for grilling on Afghanistan in Congress

Blinken braces for grilling on Afghanistan in Congress

Monday is the first occasion for Congress to publicly pressure President Biden’s secretary of state over the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, which last month took control of the Taliban and after 20 years of US-led efforts to kill several hundred American citizens and thousands of Afghans. Allies left behind. The stable country collapsed.

A House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing has been scheduled for Monday afternoon, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has pointed to the evacuation of more than 50 Americans over the past several days as proof that the Biden administration will continue to rescue people from Afghanistan. The Taliban established their new government in Kabul.

Mr Blinken will likely also focus on the nearly $64 million in humanitarian aid the US International Development Agency announced on Monday for relief agencies working in Afghanistan. Ninety-nine percent of Afghans are living on less than $2 each day, according to the International Rescue Committee, and the threat of financial sanctions against the Taliban could further wreck Afghanistan’s economy.

But it is doubtful that criticism will be blunted by some lawmakers, who have sought answers by pointing to renewed terror threats, a poor visa processing system and the setbacks to Afghan women’s rights as to why a military withdrawal that would take It was 18 months, it turned into a deadly crisis.

“The preparation of this thing, and the failure to imagine how fast it would happen and how the collapse would be complete—that’s a problem you have to point the administration at,” James F. Jeffrey, a former ambassador who worked closely with Mr Blinken and other senior officials during the Obama administration, said on Monday.

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Mr Jeffrey said the overall decision to withdraw from Afghanistan “made good sense”, as the administration also grapples with more immediate threats to the United States such as China, Russia, climate change and the coronavirus. He also suggested that most Afghans did not support the West’s approach to Afghanistan, or at least how it was being followed by Afghan leaders in Kabul, and “therefore, there was no solution to this conflict.”

The Biden administration has promised diplomatic efforts will continue, but so-called “above the horizon” strikes from Qatar’s capital Doha and in Afghanistan will prevent terrorists from gaining ground. The Taliban have agreed to deny asylum to terrorist groups as a condition of a US military withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was brokered during the Trump administration.

However, it is widely believed that al-Qaeda’s most senior leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, is currently living in Afghanistan, meaning “the Taliban is sheltering al-Qaeda today,” a former CIA deputy and Acting Director Michael J. Morrell told the CBS News program “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “I think this is a very important point,” said Mr. Morell.

Agency director William J. Top CIA officials, including Burns, have acknowledged that they are looking for new ways to gather information in Afghanistan, and that their ability to gather information on terrorist activities has diminished.

Even Democrats who backed Biden’s decision to end the 20-year war have said they view the return with mixed feelings.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, said a large number of US citizens, legal US permanent residents, and Afghan allies who were not evacuated before the army left on August 30 are now vulnerable to the Taliban “targeting on their backs”. are in.

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He said the State Department “probably took too much time” to allow people to leave Afghanistan on chartered flights from Kabul and the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, he said.

“We have lost precious time,” Blumenthal told reporters on Friday. “The condition of these individuals is desperate and urgent.”

Over the past two weeks, Mr Blinken and other US diplomats have urged allies in the region to resume commercial flights from Kabul airport, which was badly dilapidated after massive evacuation efforts , so that people with valid travel documents can go.

After talks with US officials, the Taliban have agreed to let American citizens and residents go. But the group has blocked Afghans – many of whom were stranded without proof of their employment with the US government when the US embassy in Kabul closed on August 15.

Mr Blinken has vowed that the United States will continue to pressure the Taliban to ensure a safe passage for anyone who wants to leave Afghanistan. But the State Department has not said how it will provide clearance for the thousands of Afghans who work for the government, and therefore qualify for special immigrant visas.

Mr Blinken will have two days to present the administration’s side – before a House panel on Monday and before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.

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