Watch live as Blinken testifies to House on Afghanistan withdrawal
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is being grilled by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, which saw tens of thousands of people evacuated from the country in short order as it fell to the Taliban at unexpected speed.
The president and his aides have blamed the now-collapsed Afghan government and army for giving in to the Taliban as it marched across the country, but critics on both sides of the aisle accuse the administration of “giving up” on the Afghan people and Americans working on the ground there, as well as Afghan translators and workers who helped the US in its two-decade mission. They now face violent reprisal from the Taliban, which is already committing human rights abuses and radically curtailing women’s freedoms in particular.
The US this weekend marked the two-decade anniversary of 9/11, the event that precipitated the Afghan invasion – and which Joe Biden set as his deadline for pulling all US troops out.
At just before 7.30pm ET, the hearing has adjourned. Thanks for following our coverage today.
David Taintor14 September 2021 00:24
Former Trump doctor-turned-congressman asks no questions while yelling at Blinken
Republican congressman Ronnie Jackson, who previously served as the White House physician for president Trump and Obama, delivered an impassioned rant at Mr Blinken. Mr Jackson said that four of his constituents had been left behind in Afghanistan by the Biden administration and were only evacuated from the country after a team of “patriots” organised by the congressman stepped in. Mr Jackson did not appear to ask the secretary of state a question during his allotted time.
David Taintor13 September 2021 23:48
Republicans look for a fight while Democrats look forward
My colleague John Bowden noted earlier that this hearing wouldn’t so much provide new information about the Afghanistan withdrawal as provide an opportunity for grandstanding in the current C-SPAN era of national politics. Several Republicans have spoken over the secretary of state, and their fellow congressional colleagues, in an effort to create a made-for-Twitter contentious moment. Democrats have mostly focused their questions and comments on the future of Afghanistan, and enabling the Afghan people to counter the Taliban’s harsh rule.
David Taintor13 September 2021 23:22
Blinken refuses to grade the US withdrawal’s success, clashes with Republicans
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that he couldn’t grade the success of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, but said that he agreed with the assertions from members of Congress that the withdrawal was not perfect.
The line of questioning came from Congressman Dean Phillips, a Democratic member. Seconds later, Rep. Andy Barr, a Republican, hammered Mr Blinken about whether the US military had advised the administration to withdraw completely from Bagram Air Base, or whether diplomats in the US administration had made that decision.
Mr Blinken responded that as Mr Barr knew the US was involved in a military withdrawal from the country and had handed control of Bagram to the Afghan National Army.
Another Republican, Greg Steube of Florida, kept up the furious GOP attacks on Mr Blinken by accusing him of “lying” in his opening statement, and evading responsibility for not responding to the rapid loss of territory by the Afghan National Army.
“You, Biden, and other Democrats want nothing more than to blame Trump”, said Mr Steube.
John Bowden13 September 2021 22:41
Blinken has explosive exchange with Republican Brian Mast over Ghani call
Republican Brian Mast of the House Foreign Affairs Committee hammered Secretary of State Antony Blinken during the panel’s hearing regarding a Reuters report detailing a leaked transcript of a call between Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan’s ousted president, and President Joe Biden from earlier this year.
In the transcript, which Mr Blinken and other officials have refused to verify, Mr Biden tells Mr Ghani that the perception of his government’s stability and strength must be maintained “whether true or not”.
“Did President Biden work with the coward exiled president of Afghanistan to manipulate the intelligence about the Taliban?” Mr Mast said during the exchange. “It’s false, it’s a lie, you did not attempt to tamp down the intelligence on the Taliban.”
“Absolutely not,” Mr Blinken replied.
Mr Mast went on to assert that the transcript was true, and that the call had allegedly resulted in the manipulation of intelligence data leading to the US being caught off-guard by the rapid speed at which Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, which he continued amounted to providing “aid and comfort” to the enemy. After accusing Mr Blinken of being complicit, he shouted down the secretary as Mr Blinken called him “dead wrong”.
“I don’t wish to hear your lies! We’ve heard your lies,” Mr Mast continued to shout over the secretary.
John Bowden13 September 2021 22:23
Blinken says Biden would have withdrawn US troops regardless of Trump deal
During questioning by Republican New York Rep Lee Zeldin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said President Joe Biden would have ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan regardless of the Trump administration’s deal with the Taliban.
But he added that the time, place, and manner of the withdrawal was heavily influenced by the Trump-Taliban deal, putting some of the blame for the at times chaotic withdrawal on the previous administration.
Gustaf Kilander13 September 2021 21:23
Kinzinger places blame on both Trump and Biden
Illinois Republican Rep Adam Kinzinger said the Trump Administration “failed in the setup” of the Afghanistan withdrawal and that the Biden Administration “failed in the execution”.
He expressed appreciation of the “heroic” State Department staff but added that they shouldn’t have been put in a situation where they had to act like heroes.
Gustaf Kilander13 September 2021 21:09
Hearing descends into partisan rancor and goes off topic
Gustaf Kilander13 September 2021 20:49
Blinken says US government will ‘remain hyper-vigilant’ about Al-Qaeda threat
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US government “will remain hyper-vigilant about any reemergence” of a terror threat from Al-Qaeda.
Mr Blinken was asked to lay out a counterterrorism strategy in Afghanistan.
He mentioned over-the-horizon capabilities – using aerial surveillance and drones launched from outside the country to conduct counterterrorism intelligence operations.
Gustaf Kilander13 September 2021 20:46
VIDEO: Blinken confirms 100 still await evacuation from Afghanistan
Blinken confirms 100 still await evacuation from Afghanistan
Gustaf Kilander13 September 2021 20:34