Democrats in Congress preparing hearings into frenzied Afghanistan exit
Andrew Trunsky, DCNF
- Democrats in Congress are preparing multiple hearings into the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Biden administration’s handling of it as the Taliban retook the country in days, jeopardizing the safety of Americans and Afghans who helped them during the war.
- The Foreign Affairs Committee is set to hold the first one next week, with its chairman, New York Rep. Gregory Meeks, saying 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 scheduled hearings. Democrats have offered both praise and pointed criticism toward President Joe Biden’s exit.
Democrats in Congress are preparing multiple hearings into the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Biden administration’s handling of it as 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 that the Foreign Affairs Committee will hold the first one next week, while its chairman, New York Rep. Gregory Meeks, saidTuesday 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 that hearings will convene once they return on Sept. 13. Several have pointedly criticized the Biden administration over its exit strategy and underestimation of how quickly the Taliban would advance.
“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 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.”
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 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.
Other Democrats have offered criticism and praise toward the Biden administration’s handling of the Afghanistan exit.
Rhode Island Rep. Jim Langevin was perhaps the most pointed, writing a Foreign Policy op-ed stating that the current “catastrophe” is why he opposed withdrawal in the first place.
“This negligence was par for the course for the last U.S. administration,” he wrote. “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 President Joe 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 San Francisco station KPIX 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.”
Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy also defended 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 said.