Secretary of State Antony Blinken sought this Wednesday to limit criticism of the military withdrawal from Afghanistan, releasing estimates from the secret services warning that al-Qaeda could once again use Afghan soil to plan attacks on the US.
Antony Blinken got mixed results in an attempt to face the second day of tough interrogation in Congress, this time in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
A day earlier, before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, the US secretary of state was attacked by Democratic and Republican congressmen over the Joe Biden administration’s preparation and handling of the military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Even congressmen sympathetic to US President Joe Biden’s decision to end America’s longest war by withdrawing from Afghanistan after 20 years have expressed disillusionment and concern for a large number of American residents’ legal, and at-risk Afghans left behind in the chaotic and hasty retreat from Kabul.
And as Blinken testified just three days after the 20th anniversary of September 11, 2001 – terrorist attacks that led to the US invasion of Afghanistan – the secret services presented a grim assessment that al-Qaeda could begin using the territory to threaten America within one to two years, reports the Associated Press (AP).
“The execution of the US withdrawal was clearly and fatally failed,” said commission chairman Senator Bob Menendez, who has generally supported Biden’s foreign policy but has called into question many of its aspects, including Afghanistan.
Bob Menendez said the commission has expected to receive a full explanation of the Biden administration’s decisions on Afghanistan since it took office last January,” stressing that “there has to be accountability.”
“The withdrawal was a dismal failure,” said Senator Jim Risch of Idaho, the commission’s top Republican.
Rish and virtually all of his Republican colleagues accused the administration of “ineptitude,” saying it cost the United States international credibility, led to a deadly attack on US troops and Afghan civilians at Kabul airport, and left many down.
As he did at Monday’s hearing, Blinken tried to deflect criticism and maintained that the administration had done the best it could under extremely difficult and chaotic circumstances.
Blinken again blamed the Trump administration for its February 2020 peace deal with the Taliban, which it said tied Biden’s hands, as well as the sudden and unexpected collapse of the Afghan government and security forces that led to the inauguration. of the Taliban on 15 August.
“Even the most pessimistic assessments did not predict that government forces in Kabul would collapse as long as US forces remained,” he said.
“They were focused on what would happen after the withdrawal of the United States, starting in September,” said the governor.
Blinken said the administration would keep its promises not to allow Afghanistan to be used again as a base for terrorist attacks.
But as he spoke, US intelligence said al-Qaeda may be just 12 to 24 months away from reconstituting itself in Afghanistan to pose a significant threat to the United States.
Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, who heads the Defense Intelligence Agency, gave that estimate while speaking at the National Security and Intelligence Summit.
Meanwhile, David Cohen, deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said the US had already detected “some indications of some potential al-Qaeda move into Afghanistan.”
Experts have long said the Taliban still maintain ties with al-Qaeda, which took refuge in Afghanistan before 9/11.
Although Blinken was not asked directly about the secret service’s assessments, he said the Taliban had not completely severed their ties to the group.
Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, a vehement opponent of numerous Biden policies, called the withdrawal “the worst foreign policy catastrophe in a generation” and accused the administration of being naive in hoping the Taliban will make good on their promises of moderation.
“They don’t want to be welcomed into the community of civilized nations,” he said.
“This was a failure of policy and planning,” added Rubio, another frequent critic of Biden. “I think China, Russia, and Iran look at this failed withdrawal and what they see as incompetence that they think they can exploit,” he said.
Source: with Agencies