Blinken said the Biden administration was handcuffed by Trump’s deal with the Taliban, which partially reduced the US troop presence to 2,500 by the time Biden took office. With the Taliban continuing their “relentless” military campaign regardless of this deal, Blinken said, Biden “was immediately faced with the choice of either ending the war or escalating it.”
“Had [Biden] not followed through on his predecessor’s pledge, attacks against our forces and those of our allies would have resumed and the Taliban’s national assault on major cities in Afghanistan would have begun, ”Blinken said.
Several Democratic-led congressional committees are already investigating the pullout, a dynamic that threatens to complicate Biden’s efforts to sell the much-needed pullout and the evacuation operation that followed – which resulted in the airlift of more than 120,000 people – like a success.
As Republicans have focused on the recent events leading up to the fall of Kabul, Democrats have sought to broaden the scope of the hearing to include a review of mistakes made under presidents of both parties for nearly two decades. .
“We see domestic policy injected into foreign policy,” Foreign President Gregory Meeks (DN.Y.) said of Republicans’ criticism of the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Meeks added that the committee will also hear from officials from the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations.
The State Department has previously acknowledged that thousands of Afghan allies who applied for special immigrant visas (SIVs) were left behind, in addition to several hundred Americans, when the last US troops left the ‘Afghanistan August 31. (Some of those U.S. citizens have since been evacuated from the country.)
Lawmakers on both sides had criticized the Biden administration for failing to begin earlier evacuations of these vulnerable Afghans, especially SIV claimants and their families. Many of them served as translators and interpreters for the US military throughout the war.
The delay forced a scramble within the US government, with Biden sending more than 5,000 troops to secure Kabul’s main airport, where the US-led evacuation mission was located.
Blinken said U.S. diplomatic personnel began urging Americans to leave Afghanistan as early as March. Still, Biden admitted last month that “it had unfolded faster than expected,” but argued that the rapid collapse of the Afghan government showed it was the “right decision” to leave Afghanistan.
“There is no evidence that staying longer would have made the Afghan security forces or the Afghan government more resilient or self-sufficient,” Blinken said. “If 20 years and hundreds of billions of dollars in assistance, equipment and training weren’t enough, why another year, or five or ten, would make a difference?