Live Updates: Antony Blinken Testifies About Afghanistan Withdrawal to House Foreign Affairs Committee

Live Updates

Secretary of State Antony Blinken testified in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan Monday afternoon.

Blinken faced questions about the Biden administration's decision leading up to the August 31 pull-out deadline and the choice to remove troops before all American citizens and allies were evacuated. Several committee members called on Blinken to resign, while others lauded his and the State Department's efforts in the evacuation.

Some lawmakers asked the secretary about the number of American citizens and Afghan allies who remain in Afghanistan and the administration's plans to get them out. When probed by California Rep. Ami Bera whether he would make a promise to "do the best job possible" to get every American citizen, visa holder, Special Immigrant Visa applicant and vulnerable Afghan to safety, Blinken responded "absolutely."

The committee also pressed Blinken about the administration's failure to heed warnings of the Taliban's rapid takeover from some in the intelligence community and the bombing at the Kabul airport that killed 13 U.S. service members. This included Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee, who told Blinken that it was the Biden administration's "fault" that they lacked the foresight.

House Republicans also raised concerns about the vetting process for evacuees brought into the U.S. and the relationship the U.S. has with the Taliban.

Blinken said that Afghan evacuees undergo security checks in third-party countries, and that the U.S. has "surged our intelligence and law enforcement capacity to do those initial checks."

In terms of the Taliban's role in the world moving forward, legitimacy and support from the international community will not be provided to them if they do not heed basic expectations for the rights of the Afghan people, Blinken said.

Some House Democrats used their time in speaking to Blinken to explore former President Donald Trump's role in the withdrawal, including Rep. Ted Lieu of California. Lieu read an excerpt of the Trump administration agreement to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan, calling it a "surrender document" to the Taliban.

This hearing comes after two Republican House members introduced articles of impeachment for Blinken, arguing that the secretary failed to properly advise the president and abandoned American interests in Afghanistan.

"Secretary Blinken has failed to faithfully uphold his oath and has instead presided over a reckless abandonment of our nation's interests, security, and values in his role in the withdrawal of American forces and diplomatic assets from Afghanistan," the articles said.

Blinken will also testify in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday.

The live updates for this event have ended.

Blinken Testifies Virtually
The House Foreign Affairs Committee questioned Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the steps President Joe Biden's administration took during the withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan. Blinken testifies virtually on Capitol Hill on September 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

It's the Biden Administration's 'Fault' That They Didn't Anticipate Rapid Taliban Takeover, Rep. Green Says

In response to frequent messages from the Biden administration that they did not anticipate the rapid Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee responded that the lack of foresight was the administration's "fault."

He stated that the administration was indirectly blaming intel agencies like the CIA by stating that they lacked the intel needed to anticipate the speedy overthrow, and added that it would decrease trust in future messages on national security from the administration.

Rep. Burchett Adds Calls for Blinken to Resign

Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee used only a short portion of his allotted five minutes to question Blinken, speaking of one of the U.S. service members who perished in the deadly attacks on the U.S. airport and telling the Secretary of State that his blood was on his hands and the hands of the Biden administration.

He yielded the rest of his time to Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee, who asked Blinken to confirm the Taliban was labeled as a terrorist organization. Blinken confirmed the designation, which led Green to question why the U.S. would negotiate with the group.

Blinken responded that anything the State Department does is to advance the interests of national security, and that includes ensuring that people can continue to travel freely from the country.

Trump 'Surrendered' to Taliban by Inking U.S. Withdrawal Agreement, Rep. Lieu Says

Rep. Ted Lieu of California read an excerpt of the Trump administration report detailing plans to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan, calling it a "surrender document" to the Taliban.

He said that his Republican colleagues who participated in the hearing tried to convey that Trump's agreement was conditional, but they didn't want Blinken to talk about the conditions of the withdrawal, including the main one that the Taliban would stop attacking U.S. forces if they agreed to leave the country.

International Taliban Legitimacy Dependent on 'Making Good' on Commitments, Expectations

If the Taliban does not fulfill basic expectations and commitments in regard to human rights, legitimacy and support from the international community will not be provided to them, Blinken said.

He said that countries around the world were working to establish expectations for the Taliban government, such as maintaining the basic rights of the Afghan people, including women and minorities. The U.N. Security Council is working to make those expectations clear and bring more countries on board with the baseline, he said.

Sen. Ted Cruz 'Blocking' Appointment of Key State Department Positions, Rep. Castro Says

Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas said Monday that only 26 percent of State Department, Senate-confirmed positions are currently filled, not because Biden hasn't presented candidates, but because Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has been "blocking" the filling of those positions.

Castro read off a list of unfilled positions, and stated that Blinken and the State Department lacked the team it needed "advance our nation's interest abroad and protect our own national security."

Despite lacking some national security positions, the State Department "rose to the occasion" in evacuating more than 120,000 people from Afghanistan during the withdrawal efforts, Castro said. Moving forward, placing people in those positions will be "critical" for what comes next in Afghanistan, he added.

Blinken Promises to 'Do Best Job Possible' to Get All Vulnerable Afghans, Americans Out of Afghanistan

When asked by California Rep. Ami Bera whether he would make a promise to "do the best job possible" to get every American citizen, visa holder, Special Immigrant Visa applicant and vulnerable Afghan to safety, Blinken responded "absolutely."

He also invited all other members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to work with him to fulfill the commitment.

Rep. Zeldin Accuses Biden Administration of 'Lying and Misleading' the American Public

During his allotted time during Monday's hearing, Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York voiced a list of decisions he believed the U.S. should not have taken during the withdrawal from Afghanistan, including "relying" on the Taliban to provide security at the Kabul airport, leaving U.S. weapons and equipment in the country and "lying and misleading" the American public.

He also stated that the U.S. should not have been "operating off of an arbitrary July 31 deadline," and instead should have told the Taliban that the U.S. would "leave Afghanistan when we're done bringing every last American home."

He called on Blinken to resign, stating that the action would be "leadership."

State Department Shouldn't 'Have Been Put In a Place' to Act Heroically in Afghanistan Withdrawal, Kinzinger Says

Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois lauded the "heroic" efforts of the State Department during the evacuation from Afghanistan, but said "they never should have been put in a place where they had to act heroically" while addressing Blinken.

He said that the Trump administration failed in the setup of the withdrawal, while the Biden administration failed in the execution. Additionally, while questioning the legitimacy of the Taliban-led government after the group overthrew the country's elected government, the Illinois representative also asked Blinken whether he considered their actions to be a coup d'etat.

Blinken responded that the Taliban is the "de facto government" of Afghanistan, adding that the group gaining control is the product of "one hand getting the upper hand in a civil war."

Representative Perry brings up FBI proceeding during Afghanistan hearing

During his allotted time, Representative Scott Perry accused Secretary Blinken of not caring enough to testify in front of the Committee in person, saying he "couldn't be bothered to come down and see Congress."

Blinken responded that it was his understanding that the House is not in session.

Chairman Meeks reminded Perry that this is a hybrid hearing and that all members and Blinken had the option to be in person or be remote.

Perry then asked Blinken if he was interviewed by the FBI since becoming Secretary of State.

Blinken said he did not know to what Perry was referring. Perry asked if the State Department "turned over documents to the FBI related to Hunter Biden, Burisma, or the Blue State Strategies Corporation."
Blinken responded that he would not comment on the Department's ongoing legal proceedings.

Meeks interrupted Perry to say the hearing is about Afghanistan.

Afghan evacuees undergo security checks in third-party countries

Secretary Blinken said Afghan evacuees undergo security checks in third-party countries.

"Before Afghans evacuated from Afghanistan reach the U.S., they go to a transit country, and that's where the initial checks are done," Blinken said.

"We've surged Customs and Border Patrol, we've surged our intelligence and law enforcement capacity to do those initial checks."

GOP Representative Wilson calls on Blinken to resign

Republican Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina called on Secretary Blinken to resign.

Wilson used his allotted time during the hearing to read out a New York Post editorial board oped called "6 lies Joe Biden told about Afghanistan." He did not ask Blinken a question.

Wilson ended by saying "you should resign."

Blinken says Taliban would hold the U.S. to the withdrawal deadline

When asked why the U.S. did not try to renegotiate the deal with the Taliban, Secretary Blinken said the Taliban was "going to hold us to the deadline."

"The Taliban made abundantly clear," he said, "that it was going to hold us to the deadline. It made very clear that if we move past that deadline, it would resume the attacks that it had stopped."

Blinken will not comment on the leaked phone call between Biden and Ghani

Secretary Blinken said he would not comment on the leaked phone call where President Joe Biden allegedly pressed former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to change the perception of the situation in Afghanistan.

"I cannot comment on a reportedly leaked phone call," Blinken said.

"What the president said with Ghani was exactly what he said in public," he continued.

Blinken says the Trump administration did not leave a withdrawal plan

Secretary Blinken said the Trump administration did not leave the Biden administration with a plan on how to withdrawal from Afghanistan after the deal with the Taliban was reached.

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

Taliban "falls short" of inclusivity standards in their new government, Blinken says

Secretary Blinken said the Taliban "falls short of the mark" in terms of the inclusivity standard set by the international community.

"The interim government named by the Taliban falls very short of the mark that was set by the international community for inclusivity," Blinken said.

He said some members of the Taliban's recently announced government as having "very challenging track records."

Blinken said the U.S. expects the Taliban to ensure freedom of travel, to make good on its counter-terrorism commitments, uphold the basic rights of the Afghan people, including women, girls, and minorities and to name a broadly representative permanent government.

100 American citizens who want to leave the country remain in Afghanistan, Blinken says

Secretary Blinken said that as of last week, there are 100 American citizens in Afghanistan who told the State Department that they wish to leave the country.

He emphasized that this is a "snapshot in time, as people are making decisions 'hour to hour' whether to leave or not.

Blinken says Biden faced "the choice of ending the war or escalating it"

In his opening statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended the U.S. evacuation mission in Afghanistan.

He said that the Taliban already had a strong military presence in Afghanistan when President Joe Biden took office in January 2021.

He noted that the agreement former President Donald Trump made with the Taliban stated that the U.S. was to remove all troops by May 1 and "pressed the Afghan government to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners, including some top war commanders" and reduced the U.S. troop presence.

"President Biden faced the choice of ending the war or escalating it," he said. "Had he not follow through on his predecessor's commitment, attacks on our forces, as well as our allies, would have resumed."

Blinken said that there was "no evidence" that staying in Afghanistan longer would have "made the Afghan security forces or the Afghan government any more resilient or self-sustaining."

He said the State Department started urging people to leave the country in March and offered support, including financial assistance to pay for plane tickets.

Blinken also thanked members of Congress for their help during the Afghanistan exit.

"Please know your emails, your calls made a real difference in getting people out."

Representative McCaul accuses Blinken, U.S. of a "betrayal" in Afghanistan

Representative Michael McCaul, the ranking member of the committee, said the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was an "unmitigated disaster of epic proportions."

"I never thought I'd see an unconditional surrender to the Taliban," he said.

McCaul accuses Blinken of "betrayal," noting that thousands of Afghan SIVs were left behind.

"Our standing on the world stage has been greatly diminished," he said. "Our enemies no longer fear us, our allies no longer trust us."

Chairman Meeks defends Biden administration's withdrawal efforts

In his opening statements, the Committee Chairman Representative Gregory Meeks defended the Biden administration's evacuation efforts from Afghanistan and blasted the president's critics.

"It was never going to be easy to withdrawal after the 20-year war," he said. "Are there things the administration could have done differently? Yes."

"I would welcome hearing what exactly a smooth withdrawal from a messy chaotic 20-year war looks like," he said, addressing critics of President Joe Biden and his administration.

Meeks also pointed to the role of former President Donald Trump.

"Trump's deal forced the Afghan government to release 5,000 prisoners and offered international legitimacy to the Taliban," he said.

Meeks said Republicans are "masking their displeasure with criticism but fail to offer an alternative."

"We are seeing domestic politics injected into foreign policy," Meeks said.

Meeks said officials from every administration from the last four presidential administrations should face questions about what happened in the last 20 years.

Blinken agrees to stay for all members to ask question

Secretary Antony Blinken said he will stay for the hearing until every member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee can ask a question.

Blinken calling in from a remote feed.

House Foreign Affairs Committee shares link to Blinken hearing

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will testify in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee at 2:00 p.m. ET.

You can watch the hearing live on the Committee's YouTube page.

LIVE AT 2 PM: @HouseForeign holds first hearing evaluating the withdrawal and U.S. policies in #Afghanistan from 2001-2021 with @SecBlinken. ⤵️https://t.co/RG3xGwwMNr pic.twitter.com/7h3JtspCec

— House Foreign Affairs Committee (@HouseForeign) September 13, 2021

Democratic Congresswoman is more focused on getting answers from Blinken than placing blame

Democratic Representative Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania told NPR Monday that today's hearing with Secretary of State Antony Blinken is more about gaining a better understanding of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan than placing blame.

"In Washington, there are a lot of people who we can point fingers at and we can blame," she said. "This is a very long timeline leading up to this. That's not to say there are people who certainly have more responsible than others, and I am interested in understanding that, but I think it's one of the things we need to be careful of."

Houlahan wants to ask Blinken about the closing of the Bagram Airfield, the military equipment left behind in Afghanistan and the "timeline logic" of the mission.

She said the American people are more interested in understanding why certain decisions were made and "how we will continue our way out of the 20-year war in a better place."

"This is a 20-year conversation we are having, not a two-week conversation," she said.

However, Houlahan is expecting a tense hearing this afternoon.

She said she hopes the questioning is conducted in a "civil and decent manner rather than a mud-slinging manner which is unfortunately what I anticipate."

She added that as a member of both the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees, she would also like to ask Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin similar questions about the decision-making, the U.S. timeline and strategy.

Congressman thinks House Committee will "get more lies" from Blinken

During today's House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Republican Congressman Greg Steube wants to ask Secretary of state Antony Blinken about the specific intelligence the U.S. had on the Taliban's swift advancement across Afghanistan.

"We saw this coming," Steube told Fox News Monday. "They stood by and watched the Taliban Take over Afghanistan and they didn't want to sound the alarm and get people because they knew it would alert that Afghanistan was falling."

He said the U.S. "intentionally did things that stranded our American citizens behind enemy lines."

Steube said he is not optimistic that the committee will get the answers it wasn't from Blinken this afternoon.

"I think we are going to get more lies, more subterfuge," he said.

He added that he wonders if his Democratic colleagues who served in Iraq or Afghanistan will be "willing to stand up against their own party for the American people" and "ask tough questions."

GOP Congressman ready to press Blinken on Afghanistan withdrawal

Republican Congressman and member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ken Buck said he will press Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the Biden administration's "gross incompetence" at today's hearing.

"We must get answers as to why Joe Biden stranded thousands of Americans and our allies," Buck said in a tweet.

I will be questioning @SecBlinken today at House Foreign Affairs.

We must get answers as to why Joe Biden stranded thousands of Americans and our allies.

The Administration displayed gross incompetence.

— Rep. Ken Buck (@RepKenBuck) September 13, 2021

GOP calls for Blinken to be fired over Afghanistan withdrawal

The Republican National Committee is calling for Secretary of State Antony Blinken to be fired in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

"In March, Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised [President Joe] Biden's Afghanistan withdrawal would be 'responsible;' 'remove our troops from harm's way;' ensure 'Afghanistan can never again become a haven for terrorists,'" the GOP said in a blog post Monday.

"3 promises, and 3 lies," it added.

The GOP cited a "disastrous," "Saigon-type," evacuation mission that placed American troops in harm's way and killed 13 servicemembers.

"Biden broke his promise, abandoned Americans behind enemy lines, and the U.S. has been forced to plead with the Taliban for the safety and security of our fellow citizens," The GOP said.

It added that the Taliban is currently "harboring Al-Qaeda" and that Biden headed the Taliban a victory that has "absolutely inspired jihadists all over the world."

Fire Antony Blinken. pic.twitter.com/cKz1lDIgE5

— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) September 8, 2021

UNICEF Director urges support for humanitarian aid for Afghan children

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) urged the international community to increase support for U.N. humanitarian agencies to help Afghan children and families in need.

"Children in Afghanistan have long suffered disproportionately from the humanitarian, security, social and economic crises that have plagued the country for decades. Their suffering is far from over and they need our help," UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said at the U.N. Ministerial Meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan.

UNICEF estimates that at least one million children will suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year and nearly 600,000 children have been displaced due to conflicts this year.

"Without urgent action, the grim situation facing Afghanistan's children is likely to deteriorate over the coming months because of severe drought and water scarcity, concerns around financing for the continuity of basic services, the onset of winter and the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic," Fore said.

Such humanitarian aid efforts include increasing school enrollment, protecting the rights and safety of women and girls and increasing access to health care, clean water and food.

"There has never been a more urgent time to stand with the children of Afghanistan and the people who serve them," Fore said. "Without your support, essential services will come to a grinding halt and the country will slip further into chaos. The world cannot let that happen again."

About 100 Americans remain in Afghanistan, State Department says

State Department said Friday that an estimated 100 American citizens remain in Afghanistan.

During Monday's House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Secretary of State Antony Blinken will likely face questions about the number of remaining Americans and Afghan allies in Afghanistan and the Biden administration's plan to evacuate those who want to leave.

A State Department spokesperson said 19 U.S. citizens were evacuated from Kabul on a Qatar Airways charter flight and two other U.S. citizens and 11 lawful permanent residents left Afghanistan via overland routes last week.

"We have provided guidance to them, worked to facilitate their safe passage, and embassy officials greeted them once they had crossed the border," spokesperson Jalina Porter reporters.

The State Department said it offered seats to 44 U.S. citizens to leave Afghanistan but "not all of them chose to travel.

"The situation is very fluid and ongoing," Porter said. "We are working with our allies and partners to facilitate safe travel out of Afghanistan, and we continue to identify ways to support U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, as well as Afghans who have worked with us and who may choose to depart."