Secretary of State Antony Blinken is addressing lawmakers Tuesday in a second day of questioning about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, as he faces the Senate Foreign Relations Committee one day after appearing before members of the House.
Like he did before the House committee on Monday, Blinken’s prepared opening remarks blamed the failures and troubles in Afghanistan on others, while touting the efforts of the Biden administration to do what it could.
Blinken blamed the Trump administration for making a deal with the Taliban that allowed them to gain strength and be in a position to take over the country. He said that while the Trump deal kept Taliban forces from attacking U.S. forces, their allies, and major Afghan cities, “the Taliban continued its relentless march on remote outposts, checkpoints, villages, and districts, as well as the major roads connecting the cities.”
“By January 2021, the Taliban was in its strongest military position since 9/11, and we had the smallest number of troops on the ground since 2001,” he added.
In discussing the evacuation of Americans from Afghanistan, Blinken said that the administration began telling them to leave in March, sending 19 different messages including offers to help pay for airfare.
“Despite this effort, at the time the evacuation began, there were still thousands of Americans in Afghanistan, almost all of whom were evacuated by August 31. Many were dual citizens living in Afghanistan for years, decades, generations. Deciding whether or not to leave the place they know as home is a wrenching decision,” Blinken said.
Like President Biden did after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, Blinken blamed the Afghan government and military for the situation on the ground. He said that August’s urgent need for evacuation “was sparked by the collapse of the Afghan security forces and government,” which the administration had not foreseen.
“Throughout the year, we were constantly assessing their staying power and considering multiple scenarios,” Blinken said. Even the most pessimistic assessments did not predict that government forces in Kabul would collapse while U.S. forces remained.”