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Analysis: US politicians fight disastrous legacy of war in Afghanistan as Afghans face famine

As an exercise in finding out what was wrong during the war and the withdrawal, the often inconsistent and politically charged hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee provided few answers. But he offered clear indications of how the Biden administration and its Republican opponents will clash over the disorderly end of the war in the upcoming Congress election year.

And it showed – as it did during the US withdrawal and years of battle – that the perception of events in Afghanistan, as seen by Washington, often differs from the grim reality of a failed state again controlled by fundamentalist leaders.

“Today, one in three Afghans does not know where their next meal will come from. The poverty rate is skyrocketing and basic public services are on the verge of collapsing,” Guterres warned in a statement. UN aid conference in Geneva, grim reminder US leaders engage in political talks over lost US conflict, Afghans remain cursed by dire consequences of US departure and decades of war before that.

The hearing, which is to be followed by Blinken’s appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, represented a test for the Secretary of State and his ability to blunt President Joe Biden’s political criticism of the US withdrawal.

The death of 13 American servicemen in a suicide bombing outside Kabul airport, as well as dozens of Afghans, crystallized the spectacle of a withdrawal from the country. The chaotic pullout saw Biden’s assurances of a safe and stable start repeatedly confused, helping to undermine the president’s political position.

Republicans sought to build on this perception of a jurisdictional crisis during the hearing with scathing attacks on the administration, as the GOP forges a narrative of a weak White House surrendering to terrorists – following the lead of ex-President Donald Trump as he tries to revive his own political fortunes.

Blinken criticizes Trump’s deal with the Taliban

While there were some lukewarm Democratic criticisms of the administration’s record, the hearing was mostly an example of how the hyper-partisanship of current politics – regardless of which party controls – is hardly conducive to the role of Congress of providing accountability and oversight of whites. Housing.

In many ways, Blinken’s performance mirrored that of Biden himself after the fall of Kabul, which necessitated an emergency evacuation that saved more than 120,000 U.S. citizens and Afghans who assisted U.S. forces during the 20 years war. He spread a lot of blame. But he made few admissions that the administration itself was wrong.

In fact, the Secretary of State left the impression that the evacuation could hardly have gone better, calling it “extraordinary”. Blinken also berated the Trump administration for its deal with the Taliban last year, which he said put the United States on an inexorable path to withdrawal.

“We inherited a deadline. We didn’t inherit a plan,” Blinken said, referring to Trump’s agreement last year to withdraw all troops by May 1, a deadline that Biden extended by four months.

Blinken’s statements were grounded in the facts. But they also ignored the fact that Biden reversed many of Trump’s other foreign policies and had been in office for seven months when the Afghan evacuation took place.

The secretary of state argued that there was no indication that the Afghan army, under the onslaught of the Taliban, would collapse in as little as 11 days. And he said there was no evidence that staying longer would have made the Afghan security forces “more resilient or self-sufficient.” Regarding the slowness of the Afghan special immigrant visa processing operation, he blamed the Trump administration and its intransigent immigration policy.

After entering the audience under heavy political pressure, it appeared that Blinken mostly weathered the storm. His life experience as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee prepared him well because he flattered his interlocutors, even Republicans who denounced the conduct of the administration.

Blinken also objected to the idea put forward by some military strategists that the United States could have stayed longer in Afghanistan with a small garrison, saying such a move would have resulted in the death of clashes with the Taliban and American troops. Most controversially, Blinken claimed that if Biden had extended the mission, he would have effectively “resumed the war in Afghanistan for another five, 10 or 20 years.”

The comment was the latest sign of a tactical hypothesis by the Biden administration that while the American people may not have been impressed by the chaotic end of 20 years of war, there was broad public support. to bring all troops out of danger for two decades. after the September 11 attacks.

“A total disaster”

Republicans have largely tried to create the impression that anything that went wrong in the evacuation was due to Biden’s leadership, rather than the corrosive impact of a 20-year war that has gone badly since. years.

They also ignored the fact that Trump and ex-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paved the way for an exit from the United States with a deal with the Taliban that freed 5,000 Taliban prisoners and in many ways locked Biden. – a fact that the former president boasted about it publicly.

The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, accused the Biden team of presiding over “an absolute disaster of epic proportions.” He later said in “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” that some of the US Afghan allies who had been left behind by the evacuation had already been executed by the Taliban.

“The American people don’t like to lose, especially not against terrorists. But that’s exactly what happened,” said McCaul, citing a line likely to be heard often during the mid-election campaign. term next year.

The Democratic chairman of the committee, Representative Gregory Meeks of New York, sought to prevent numerous Republican attacks in his opening statement, while expressing concern for Americans and Afghan allies in the US military who wanted to leave.

“Are there things the administration could have done differently? Meeks asked. “Absolutely, yes, as always,” he said, but added that he had not heard of any “clean exit option” that would work in Afghanistan.

At times, the audience escalated into the kind of political spectacle that often goes beyond the testimony of senior officials, as members of Congress perform for the camera.

GOP Pennsylvania Representative Scott Perry criticized Blinken for not appearing in person in the courtroom. “Oh, I couldn’t be bothered to come here and see Congress, okay that’s great,” Perry said.

Meeks said Blinken – who testified via a State Department video link – was not required to appear in person since the hearing was a hybrid event.

Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia called the Republican attacks on Blinken a “mix of selective facts.”

Blinken can expect another tough round when he appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday. Democratic panel chairman Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Monday that his hearing would be one of many that would get the “truth”.

“I think the exit was poorly executed,” Menendez said, although he qualified his remark by saying that Team Biden had been given a “bad situation” by Trump.

Biden is also expected to face an investigation within his own party into a tragic aspect of the US withdrawal – an airstrike in Kabul last month – by Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who chairs the House Intelligence Committee.

The strike killed 10 civilian relatives, including seven children, a relative of the deceased told CNN. At the time, the US Central Command said it carried out what it called a defensive airstrike on a car, targeting a suspected ISIS-K suicide bomber who posed an “imminent” threat to the airport.

A House Intelligence Committee official told CNN’s Jeremy Herb on Monday that Schiff was planning to examine the airstrike following investigations by the Washington Post and The New York Times that cast doubt on claims the vehicle contained explosives.

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