Republicans call for resignation of Secretary of State over Afghan exit – live

Republicans call for resignation of Secretary of State over Afghan exit – live

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.

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Blinken: 100 Americans left in Afghanistan that want to leave

Gustaf Kilander13 September 2021 20:19

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Blinken says six Americans left Afghanistan via ‘overland route’

“On Thursday, a Qatar Airways charter flight with US citizens and others onboard departed Kabul and landed in Doha. On Friday, a second flight carrying US citizens and others departed Afghanistan. These flights were the result of coordinated efforts by the United States, Qatar, and Turkey to reopen the airport, and intense diplomacy to start the flights,” Mr Blinken said in his opening statement.

“In addition to those flights, 6 American citizens and 11 permanent residents of the United States have also left Afghanistan via an overland route, with our help. We are in constant contact with American citizens still in Afghanistan who have told us they wish to leave. Each has been assigned a case management team to offer specific guidance and instructions. Some declined to be on the first flights on Thursday and Friday for reasons including needing more time to make arrangements, wanting to remain with extended family for now, or medical issues that preclude travelling now,” he added.

You can read the entire opening statement here.

Gustaf Kilander13 September 2021 20:15

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Blinken: “We inherited a deadline. We did not inherit a plan.”

“We inherited a deadline. We did not inherit a plan,” Mr Blinken said when he was asked if any withdrawal plans were left by the Trump administration to remove US troops after they made the deal with the Taliban for when the US presence in the country would end.

Gustaf Kilander13 September 2021 20:15

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Blinken says Taliban is committed to preventing terror groups from using country as base

“The Taliban has committed to prevent terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as a base for external ops that could threaten the US or our allies, including Al Qaeda and ISIS-K,” Mr Blinken said during the hearing.

“That does not mean we will rely on them,” he added.

Gustaf Kilander13 September 2021 20:07

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Blinken hails evacuation effort

“The evacuation was an extraordinary effort – under the most difficult conditions imaginable – by our diplomats, military, and intelligence professionals,” Mr Blinken said in his opening statement.

“They worked around the clock to get American citizens, Afghans who helped us, citizens of our Allies and partners, and at-risk Afghans on planes, out of the country, and off to the United States or transit locations that our diplomats arranged in multiple countries.

“Our consular team worked 24-7 to reach out to Americans who could still be in the country, making 55,000 phone calls and sending 33,000 emails by August 31 – and they’re still at it. In the midst of this heroic effort, an ISIS-K attack killed 13 service members working the gates at HKIA, wounded 20 others, and killed and wounded scores of Afghans. In the end, we completed one of the biggest airlifts in history, with 124,000 people evacuated to safety,” he added.

You can read the entire opening statement here.

Gustaf Kilander13 September 2021 20:05

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Blinken says Taliban would recommence attacks on US if they stayed past deadline

Gustaf Kilander13 September 2021 19:59

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Blinken again cites military assessment to defend intelligence failure

Mr Blinken said the “emergency evacuation was sparked by the collapse of the Afghan security forces and government” during his opening statement.

“Throughout the year, we were constantly assessing their staying power and considering multiple scenarios. Even the most pessimistic assessments did not predict that government forces in Kabul would collapse while U.S. forces remained.

“As General Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said, ‘Nothing I or anyone else saw indicated a collapse of this army and this government in 11 days.’

“Nonetheless, we planned and exercised a wide range of contingencies. Because of that planning, we were able to draw down our embassy and move our remaining personnel to the airport within 48 hours. And the military – placed on standby by the President – was able to secure the airport and start the evacuation within 72 hours,” Mr Blinken added.

You can read the entire opening statement here.

Gustaf Kilander13 September 2021 19:55

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Blinken says Biden admin ‘significantly’ sped up processing of Afghan special visas

“In April, we began drawing down our embassy, ordering non-essential personnel to depart,” Mr Blinken said in a prepared statement.

“We also used this time to significantly speed up the processing of Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans who worked for us. When we took office, we inherited a program with a 14-step process based on a statutory framework enacted by Congress and involving multiple government agencies – and a backlog of more than 17,000 SIV applicants.

“There had not been a single interview of an SIV applicant in Kabul in nine months, going back to March of 2020. The program was basically in a dead stall. Within two weeks of taking office, we restarted the SIV interview process in Kabul. On February 4th, one of the first executive orders issued by President Biden directed us to immediately review the SIV program to identify causes of undue delay and find ways to process SIV applications more quickly.

“This spring, I directed significant additional resources to the program, expanding the team of people in Washington processing applications from 10 to 50 and doubling the number of SIV adjudicators at our embassy in Kabul. Even as many embassy personnel returned to the United States, we sent more consular officers to Kabul to process SIV applications.”

You can read the entire opening statement here.

Gustaf Kilander13 September 2021 19:50

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Taliban was at its strongest since 9/11 in January, Blinken says

“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,” Mr Blinken said in a prepared opening statement to Congress.

“As a result, upon taking office, President Biden immediately faced the choice between ending the war or escalating it. Had he not followed through on his predecessor’s commitment, attacks on our forces and those of our allies would have resumed and the Taliban’s nationwide assault on Afghanistan’s major cities would have commenced. That would have required sending substantially more U.S. forces into Afghanistan to defend ourselves and prevent a Taliban 2 takeover, taking casualties – and with at best the prospect of restoring a stalemate and remaining stuck in Afghanistan, under fire, indefinitely,” Mr Blinken added, echoing arguments made by Mr Biden.

“There’s no evidence that staying longer would have made the Afghan security forces or the Afghan government any more resilient or self-sustaining. If 20 years and hundreds of billions of dollars in support, equipment, and training did not suffice, why would another year, or five, or ten, make a difference?” Mr Blinken said.

You can read the entire opening statement here.

Gustaf Kilander13 September 2021 19:45

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Blinken again presses Trump-Taliban deal as reason for speedy withdrawal

“When President Biden took office in January, he inherited an agreement that his predecessor had reached with the Taliban to remove all remaining U.S. troops by May 1 of this year,” Mr Blinken said in a prepared statement.

“As part of that agreement, the previous Administration pressed the Afghan government to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners – including some top war commanders,” he added. “Meanwhile, it reduced our own force presence to 2,500 troops. In return, the Taliban agreed to stop attacking U.S. and partner forces and to refrain from threatening Afghanistan’s major cities. But the Taliban continued its relentless march on remote outposts, checkpoints, villages, and districts, as well as the major roads connecting the cities.”

You can read the entire opening statement here.

Gustaf Kilander13 September 2021 19:40

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