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US foreign policy

Top Democrat on Senate committee slams Biden admin, US withdrawal from Afghanistan

“A full accounting of the US response to this crisis is not complete without the Pentagon, especially when it comes to understanding the complete collapse of the US-trained and funded Afghan military,” Menendez said.

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The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday blasted the Biden administration over its handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal and threatened to subpoena the US defense secretary to testify.

During the second day of a committee hearing on Afghanistan to question Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Senator Bob Menendez revealed that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin refused to testify. But Menendez said he might subpoena Austin “in the near future” if he does not step forward to testify.

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“I expect that the [Defense] Secretary will avail himself to the committee in the near future. If he does not, I may consider the use of the committee’s subpoena power to compel him and others over the course of these last 20 years to testify,” Menendez said.

“A full accounting of the US response to this crisis is not complete without the Pentagon, especially when it comes to understanding the complete collapse of the US-trained and funded Afghan military,” he added.

While Menendez said the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan was the right move, he said the manner in which it was carried out was wrong.

The US withdrawal was “clearly and fatally flawed.”

The Taliban took over within days despite US intelligence reports suggesting that the Afghan government and army would be able to fend for themselves for at least two months.

And since then, the US has refused to recognize the Taliban-run government despite ongoing communication between the militants and US officials.

Blinken and other senior US officials have said they would judge the Taliban by their actions if they wanted international legitimacy.

On Tuesday, Menendez said that the US should judge the Taliban by their actions but hit out at the delay in condemning the Taliban’s behavior, which has already been seen.

Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez questions Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Sept. 14, 2021. (Reuters)
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez questions Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Sept. 14, 2021. (Reuters)

“Their actions since taking over Afghanistan have been pretty horrifying,” Menendez said, citing videos of militants separating classrooms by gender, assaulting, harassing and beating women in public and killing Afghan minorities.

Journalists have also reported being beaten and harassed by the Taliban for their coverage of protests against the group.

During his opening remarks on Monday, Blinken cast most of the blame for the chaotic and dismal Afghanistan withdrawal on the Trump administration.

“When President Biden took office in January, he inherited an agreement that his predecessor had reached with the Taliban to remove all remaining US troops by May 1 of this year. 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,” Blinken told the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Read more: Senior Taliban member says women should not work alongside men