Blinken to testify before Senate panel next week on Afghanistan

Blinken to testify before Senate panel next week on Afghanistan
© Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Sept. 14 to testify about the administration's withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

It is the first scheduled public hearing with administration officials since late last month, when the Biden administration was caught off guard by the rapid collapse of the Afghan government and military and the advance of the Taliban into Kabul. 

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing is set to be on "examining the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan." Blinken is the only witness currently listed for the hearing and a spokesman for Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezBiden, don't punish India Democrats reject hardball tactics against Senate parliamentarian  Biden threatens more sanctions on Ethiopia, Eritrea over Tigray conflict MORE (D-N.J.) didn't immediately respond to a question about potential testimony from additional administration officials. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The hearing likely marks the start of what is expected to be a lengthy public grilling for administration officials by Congress amid a slew of unanswered questions about Biden's exit plans in Afghanistan, including how the White House was caught off guard by the swift collapse of the U.S.-backed government, and how to get remaining Americans and Afghan allies out of the country. 

Sunday's announcement of the hearing with Blinken comes amid reports that at least four planes at an airport in northern Afghanistan have been unable to leave the country for days. The State Department said Sunday it did not have the “reliable means” to confirm if the Taliban was preventing planes with American citizens and Afghan allies from leaving the country. 

Menendez, in a statement last month, was critical of the botched exit, saying that they were "clear policy execution and intelligence failures associated with our withdrawal and its aftermath."  

“The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will continue fulfilling its oversight role with a hearing on U.S. policy towards Afghanistan, including the Trump administration’s flawed negotiations with Taliban, and the Biden administration’s flawed execution of the U.S. withdrawal," he said at the time. 

"The Committee will seek a full accounting for these shortcomings as well as assess why the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces collapsed so quickly. Congress was told repeatedly that the Afghan Defense and Security Forces were up to the task. ...The American and Afghan people clearly have not been told the truth about the ANDSF’s capacity and deserve answers," he added. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Senate Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee also pushed Menendez in a letter late last month to set up a public hearing with Blinken. 

"We need to hear from Secretary Blinken directly, to understand why the State Department was so ill prepared for the contingencies unfolding before us and what it will take to get the State Department back on track," they wrote at the time. 

In addition to Menendez, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack ReedJack ReedTop Republican: General told senators he opposed Afghanistan withdrawal We have a plan that prioritizes Afghanistan's women — we're just not using it This week: Democrats kick off chaotic fall with Biden's agenda at stake MORE (D-R.I.) and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDemocrats confront 'Rubik's cube on steroids' Advocates call on top Democrats for 0B in housing investments Democrats draw red lines in spending fight MORE (D-Va.) have pledged to ask questions about the U.S. exit in Afghanistan. 

Blinken has been among a rotation of administration officials who have briefed lawmakers privately since mid-August, though none have testified in public yet. 

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Greg Meeks (D-N.Y.) has also requested that he testify, though a hearing hasn't yet been announced. Meeks is also requesting that Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinSchumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Afghan evacuation still frustrates Diplomats express 'frustration' to Blinken over Havana syndrome skepticism: report MORE testify before his committee.