Blinken faces fury over Afghan exit as senators ask if Biden actually in charge

Posted 12 days ago


Secretary of State Antony Blinken faced bipartisan criticism Tuesday over the botched US withdrawal from Afghanistan — as a top Senate Republican questioned whether President Biden is actually calling the shots in the White House.

Blinken’s second consecutive day of grilling by Capitol Hill lawmakers even saw the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee blast last month’s humiliating exit — which included the killings of 13 American service members — as “clearly and fatally flawed.”

*  Blinken admitted that officials were still investigating whether a drone strike at a suspected ISIS-K terrorist accidentally killed an Afghan aid worker and nine family members, including seven kids.

*  Blinken tried to downplay the number of child brides being brought to the US by Afghan refugees.

*  Blinken’s claim that no one expected Kabul to fall before the US military left was countered by months of intelligence warnings that the situation in Afghanistan was “going to hit the fan.”

Blinken took repeated hits from the committee’s GOP members, including ranking member Sen. James Risch of Idaho, who blasted the withdrawal as a “dismal failure.”

“There’s not enough lipstick in the world to put on this pig to make it look any different than what it actually is,” he said.

Risch also demanded to know who in the White House was in charge of ending the official livestream coverage of Biden’s appearances, as happened mid-sentence Monday during a meeting in Boise, Idaho, about the wildfires plaguing the western US.

When Blinken said that Biden “speaks very clearly and very deliberately for himself,” Risch asked, “Well, are you saying that there is no one in the White House that can cut him off?”

“Because yesterday, that happened, and it’s happened a number of times before that. It’s been widely reported,” Risch said.

“Somebody has the ability to push the button and cut off his sound and stop him from speaking. Who is that person?”

Risch added: “This is a puppeteer act if you would, and we need to know who is in charge and who is making the decisions.”

But unlike during Blinken’s appearance before the House Foreign Relations Committee on Monday — when most Democrats blamed the Afghan chaos on former President Donald Trump’s February 2020 peace deal with the Taliban — some key Senate Democrats excoriated the Biden administration for its failures.

“The execution of the US withdrawal was clearly and fatally flawed,” Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said.

“This committee expects to receive a full explanation of this administration’s decisions on Afghanistan since coming into office last January.”

Menendez — who’s one of a handful of Democratic hawks — added: “There has to be accountability.”

Other Democrats who were hard on Blinken and President Biden included Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), meanwhile, pressed Blinken on... (Read more)