On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken appeared before Congress for the second time this week—this time to address the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. On Monday, Blinken’s appearance before the House Foreign Affairs Committee became heated, as Democrats and Republicans hurled accusations at rival party administrations. While debates in the upper chamber were calmer, they put on full display fundamental disagreements about whether the blame for the crisis should be put on former President Donald Trump or sitting President Joe Biden.
Blinken Defends Biden Administration
In the same prepared speech given to the House Monday, Blinken defended the actions of the Biden administration in Afghanistan.
He began by saying that the United States had two main goals in going into Afghanistan in the first place: “bringing justice to al-Qaeda” for its role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and ensuring that the country could not be used as a launching point for another such terror attack. These goals, said Blinken, were “completed long ago.”
Still, Blinken indicated that the current administration felt forced into conforming with the deal made by Trump with the Taliban. Biden had two choices when he came into office and inherited this deal, Blinken said: “ending the war or escalating it.”
Here, Blinken is referencing Trump’s 2020 deal with the Taliban that would have fulfilled one of the president’s campaign promises to get the country out of the war.
The former president has been heavily critical of Biden’s handling of the withdrawal. In discussions of the situation, Trump has been open about the deal that he and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made with the Taliban, but has remained insistent that this deal would have been reliant on the Taliban meeting several conditions and that his administration would have handled the situation much differently.
Blinken then pointed to the successes of the administration during the crisis.
He said that in March, just weeks after Biden took office, the State Department was telling Americans to leave the country and offering to help them do so. At the same time, he claimed, the administration worked to speed up the processing of special immigrant visas (SIVs), a usually long and arduous process under standing law; the Trump administration, he added, had done little on this front.
Repeating an often-stated refrain, Blinken said that the rapid decay of the country’s political and military situation defied all predictions. Blinken said that “even the most pessimistic prediction” did not indicate such a quick collapse.
By Joseph Lord