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Blinken on Afghanistan withdrawal: 'We inherited a deadline,' not plan

10:38 14 September 2021 Author :  

Secretary of State Antony Blinken pushed back on Monday against blistering Republican criticism over the manner in which the US left Afghanistan following two decades of war. 

Testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Blinken repeatedly pointed to the fact that the Biden administration was left with an agreement former US President Donald Trump brokered directly with the Taliban for the departure of US forces, which was supposed to be completed by May 1. In exchange, the Taliban agreed to halt all attacks on American service members.

"We inherited a deadline. We did not inherit a plan," Blinken said under questioning from Democratic congressman Brad Sherman during the first of two days of congressional questioning. He will appear on Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

US President Joe Biden has come under severe criticism from Republicans for the manner in which the hasty US pullout was conducted, and as his top diplomat did after him, Biden has repeatedly pointed to the fact that he was handed an agreement to withdraw from Afghanistan negotiated before his time in office.

Nonetheless, Republicans maintained the party line against the Democratic president with congressman Michael McCaul maintaining the pullout was an "unmitigated disaster of epic proportions."

"I never thought in my lifetime that I would see an unconditional surrender to the Taliban," he said.

Blinken said that if the US were to have stayed beyond Biden's self-imposed Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline the Taliban would have resumed its attacks, which would have resulted in the US sending "substantially more" troops to the country after drawing down to its smallest foot print since the war began in 2001. That effort would have been futile, said Blinken.

“There is no evidence that staying longer would have made the Afghan security forces or the Afghan government any more resilient or self-sustaining," he said. "If 20 years and hundreds of billions of dollars in support, equipment and training did not suffice, why would another year, another five, another 10?"

Turning to the Taliban's recently-announced interim government, the top diplomat said it "falls far short of the mark" established by the US and the international community with a notable lack of female representation while including individuals “who have very challenging track records.”/aa

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