2 hr 25 min agoBlinken: Even the most “pessimistic assessments” did not predict the collapse of Afghan forces in Kabul Secretary of State Antony Blinken said even the most “pessimistic assessments” of the situation on the ground in Kabul, Afghanistan, did not predict that “government forces in the city would collapse while US forces remained,” during his congressional testimony.
“As General Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said, ‘Nothing I or anyone else saw indicated a collapse of this army and this government in 11 days,'” Blinken noted. Blinken continued: “Nonetheless, we planned and exercised a wide range of contingencies. Because of that planning, we were able to draw down our embassy and move our remaining personnel to the airport within 48 hours. And the military – placed on stand-by by President Biden – was able to secure the airport and start the evacuation within 72 hours.”
2 hr 25 min agoTop Democrat defends Afghanistan withdrawal: It was “never going to be easy”From CNN’s Josiah Ryan
(Pool)Rep. Gregory Meeks, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, defended the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying he saw no scenario in which such a pullout would have been smooth.
“Disentangling ourselves from the war in Afghanistan was never going to be easy,” he said, speaking on Capitol Hill today as he and members of the committee prepared to question Secretary of State Tony Blinken. Meeks challenged lawmakers who have been critical of the disorderly pullout to describe how they could have managed the operation better.
“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,” he said. “In fact, I’ve yet to hear the clean withdrawal option because I don’t believe one exists.”
But Meeks later acknowledge that some of the elements of the operation could have been “done differently.”
“Are there things the administration could have done differently?” he asked. “Absolutely. Yes. As always. Foremost for me is for the State Department to evaluate how it could better evacuate Americans when events unravelled quickly.”
2 hr 32 min agoBlinken: If Biden didn’t pull out US troops, Taliban attacks on US forces and allies “would have resumed”Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during his opening remarks that when President Biden took office “he inherited an agreement” made by Trump with the Taliban that his “to remove all remaining US troops by May 1 of this year.”
He continued: “As part of that agreement, the previous Administration pressed the Afghan government to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners – including some top war commanders. Meanwhile, it reduced our own force presence to 2,500 troops. In return, the Taliban agreed to stop attacking U.S. and partner forces and to refrain from threatening Afghanistan’s major cities.”
Blinken said that after making the agreement, the Taliban “continued its relentless march on remote outposts, checkpoints, villages, and districts, as well as the major roads connecting” the cities. He said that by January 2021, the Taliban “was in its strongest military position since 9/11.”
“Had he not followed through on his predecessor’s commitment, attacks on our forces and those of our allies would have resumed and the Taliban’s nationwide assault on Afghanistan’s major cities would have commenced,” Blinken said.His testimony before the House Foreign Affair Committee is ongoing.
2 hr 33 min agoNOW: Blinken grilled by House lawmakers about chaotic end of Afghanistan warFrom CNN’s Nicole Gaouette
(Pool)Secretary of State Antony Blinken is testifying in what is expected to be a confrontational and emotional hearing about Afghanistan and the chaotic withdrawal that ended America’s longest war.
Monday’s hearing will be the first of two appearances Blinken makes before Congress this week.
The top US diplomat – the first Biden administration official to publicly account for the events in Afghanistan before Congress – will appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is expected to face a grilling from lawmakers in both parties who have been furious about the outcome.
After nearly two decades, more than $2 trillion in US taxpayer funds, the deaths of more than 6,000 Americans and 100,000 Afghans, and a frenzied US airlift effort, Afghanistan has returned to Taliban control.
Along with administration officials, lawmakers were taken by surprise as the Taliban swiftly trounced Afghan troops, leaving US citizens, legal permanent citizens and Afghans who worked with US troops and diplomats scrambling to leave the country during the rushed evacuation effort — or get left behind. Many lawmakers were personally drawn in as they struggled to help constituents escape Kabul.
Blinken, usually steady and unruffled in his public appearances, will encounter angry demands for answers about the true number of US citizens still inside the country, ongoing efforts to help them leave, whether the US plans to formally recognize the Taliban, the fate of US military equipment and why 13 US service members died at Kabul airport in a terrorist attack that the administration knew was coming.
Read more about today’s hearing here.
2 hr 47 min agoBlinken defends Biden administration’s Afghanistan withdrawal in prepared statement to CongressFrom CNN’s Michael K. Callahan
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during an event on September 10. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/AP)As the Biden administration faces criticism for the chaotic evacuation from Afghanistan, Secretary of State Tony Blinken will defend the way the evacuation was carried out – including the pre-planning that took place – in his prepared opening remarks before the House Foreign Affairs Committee this afternoon.
“We planned and exercised a wide range of contingencies. Because of that planning, we were able to draw down our embassy and move our remaining personnel to the airport within 48 hours. And the military – placed on stand-by by the President – was able to secure the airport and start the evacuation within 72 hours,” Blinken will say, noting that no one expected the collapse to happen as quickly as it did.The nation’s top diplomat will describe the evacuation of 124,000 people as “an extraordinary effort – under the most difficult conditions imaginable – by our diplomats, military, and intelligence professionals.”
He will say that by the end of August, the US government got out “almost all” of the Afghans and Americans who were still in Afghanistan and wanted to get out.
Blinken will detail how the vast effort to get those Americans and Afghans out of the country – alongside US allies – began in the spring as President Biden made his decision to withdraw US troops from the country.
“In advance of the President’s decision, I was in constant contact with our Allies and partners to hear their views and factor them into our thinking. When the President announced t
Blinken: Even the most ‘pessimistic assessments’ did not predict the collapse of Afghan forces in Kabul
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