Blinken to face more Afghanistan questions after GOP criticism during House testimony

Secretary of state faces Senate Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday

By Ronn Blitzer | Fox News

Secretary of State Antony Blinken returns to Capitol Hill Tuesday for a second day of questioning about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan as he faces the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee one day after appearing before members of the House.

Blinken is expected to face more grilling from Republicans on issues including the decision-making behind the American military withdrawal and those still remaining in Afghanistan seeking evacuation when he sits for the hearing, which is set to begin at 10 a.m. Eastern. The secretary gave a rough estimate of how many U.S. citizens are still stranded in Afghanistan when he faced the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday.

"So as of the end of last week, we had about 100 American citizens in Afghanistan who told us that they wish to leave the country," Blinken said. "And I want to emphasize that this is a snapshot in time. It's more accurately a moving picture, as you know, stepping back for a minute to know precisely at any given moment of time exactly how many American citizens are in any country."

The secretary of state also acknowledged that the Taliban is preventing charter flights in Afghanistan from leaving. "There have been charter flights that have been there for some time, that have not been allowed to leave," Blinken said. 

Monday featured a number of tense moments as three Republicans – Reps. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., and Joe Wilson, R-S.C. – called on Blinken to resign.

Blinken was pressed on a Reuters report that President Biden had asked then-Afghan president Ashraf Ghani in a phone call "to project a different picture" of the battle against the Taliban – which was being viewed as a losing effort – "whether it is true or not."

The secretary declined to weigh in, stating that he was "not commenting on any purportedly leaked transcripts."

At another point on Monday, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, asked Blinken if Russian President Vladimir Putin "threatened" Biden against developing intelligence capabilities near Afghanistan.

Blinken admitted that was "an important question" but said it had to be addressed "in another setting."

A number of Democrats defended the Biden administration against claims that the problems with the withdrawal were the fault of the current White House.

"Disentangling ourselves from the war in Afghanistan was never going to be easy," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., said. "And for my friends who presume a clean solution for the withdrawal existed, I would welcome hearing what exactly a smooth withdrawal from a messy, chaotic, 20-year war looks like. In fact, I’ve yet to hear the clean withdrawal option, because I don’t believe one exists."

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., also defended the administration, arguing that there was an ongoing "stampede" last month at the Kabul airport where the U.S. carried out its evacuation and that "there is simply no way the administration can have an orderly or successful stampede."

Blinken himself placed blame on former President Trump, who had negotiated a deal with the Taliban that set the stage for the U.S. withdrawal.

"We inherited a deadline, we did not inherit a plan," Blinken said.

Fox News’ Jessica Chasmar, Peter Hasson and Houston Keene contributed to this report.

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  • Posted On: 9/14/2021 7:13:37 AM
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