Democrats in Congress are preparing multiple hearings into the Biden administration’s handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, considering the Taliban retook the country in days, jeopardizing the safety of Americans and Afghans who helped them during the war.
Hearings are expected in the House once it returns from its August recess Monday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Foreign Affairs Committee will hold the first one next week, while its chairman, Democratic New York Rep. Gregory Meeks, said Tuesday that he had invited Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to testify.
Top committee chairs in the Senate have also said hearings will convene once they return on Sept. 13.
“In implementing this flawed plan, I am disappointed that the Biden administration clearly did not accurately assess the implications of a rapid US withdrawal,” said Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the Foreign Relations Committee chair, in a statement Tuesday.
“We are now witnessing the horrifying results of many years of policy and intelligence failures.”
He added that he would soon hold a hearing on “the Trump administration’s flawed negotiations with Taliban, and the Biden administration’s flawed execution of the U.S. withdrawal.”
Democratic Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, the chair of the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that he was “deeply concerned about the evolving humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan” and that there are “no easy answers to how we got here.”
“At the appropriate time, the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold hearings on what went wrong in Afghanistan and lessons learned to avoid repeating those mistakes,” he added.
Both were echoed by Democratic Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who called the recent events “devastating.”
“Intelligence officials have anticipated for years that in the absence of the U.S. military the Taliban would continue to make gains in Afghanistan,” he said in a statement.
“That is exactly what has happened as the Afghan National Security Forces proved unable or unwilling to defend against Taliban advances in Kabul and across the country.”
“As the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I hope to work with the other committees of jurisdiction to ask tough but necessary questions about why we weren’t better prepared for a worst-case scenario involving such a swift and total collapse of the Afghan government and security forces,” Warner said.
Democratic Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy appeared to side with the current administration, as he took to Twitter on Tuesday to defend Biden’s decision.
“The idea that a small, cloistered U.S. presence in Afghanistan was going to be able to prevent the completely understandable public panic caused by the overnight, complete collapse of the Afghan military is probably without merit,” he tweeted.
The idea that a small, cloistered U.S. presence in Afghanistan was going to be able to prevent the completely understandable public panic caused by the overnight, complete collapse of the Afghan military is probably without merit.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) August 17, 2021
On the other hand, Democratic Rhode Island Rep. Jim Langevin was critical of the Biden administration’s exit strategy, writing a foreign policy Op-Ed stating the current “catastrophe” is why he opposed withdrawal in the first place.
“I am disappointed to see it now. At minimum, the Biden administration owed our Afghan allies of 20 years a real plan. They also owed it to our military service members and their families, particularly the men and women in uniform and their families who gave the ultimate sacrifice.”
Pelosi, however, praised Biden and his decision.
“I commend the President for the action that he took. It was strong, it was decisive and it was the right thing to do,” she told local KPIX-TV Tuesday.
“Now we are unfortunately, one of the possibilities was it would be in disarray, as it is. But that has to be corrected,” Pelosi said.
“It’s my understanding from the assurances we have received that the military will be there negotiating with the Taliban for the safe exit of American citizens and friends, people who have helped us, our allies there.”
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