Blinken defends chaotic Kabul withdrawal, says Biden administration is now focused on threat to Afghan ‘LGBTQI+ community’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken denied accusations of a botched retreat from Afghanistan, blaming the Trump administration for any failures and saying Washington is focused on protecting LGBTQ and other vulnerable Afghans.

“Thank you for rightly putting the spotlight on concerns about the LGBTQI+ community in Afghanistan and the particular threat that they find themselves under,” Blinken told US Representative David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) on Monday in a House hearing on the Afghan withdrawal.

This is something that we are focused on.

It’s not clear how Blinken intends to protect LGBTQ and other vulnerable Afghans, as the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan even before the Biden administration could complete its exit. The administration on Monday announced $64 million in new humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, saying the money will be routed to charities and UN agencies to avoid letting it get into the hands of the Taliban.

USAID, led by notable interventionist Samantha Power, will send the money through nongovernmental organizations to “provide life-saving support directly to Afghans facing the compounding effects of insecurity, conflict, recurring natural disasters and the Covid-19 pandemic,” according to the announcement.

Blinken implied that the US has some level of leverage over the Taliban, even while acknowledging that the Islamist group has prevented some Americans and US allies from leaving the country on charter flights.

“We expect the Taliban to ensure freedom of travel, to make good on its commitments on counter-terrorism, to uphold the basic rights of the Afghan people – including women, girls and minorities – to name a broadly representative permanent government,” the secretary said. “The legitimacy and support the Taliban seeks from the international community will depend on its conduct.”

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Blinken admitted that about 100 American citizens and “several thousand” legal permanent US residents remain in Afghanistan.
Dozens of Afghans died in the early days of the chaotic US withdrawal, and 170 were killed in the August 26 suicide bombing at Kabul airport, along with 13 American troops. But Blinken rejected Republican calls to resign and deflected criticism, saying President Joe Biden was left with a choice of honoring a peace deal that former President Donald Trump’s administration negotiated with the Taliban or sending a third generation of American troops to continue fighting America’s longest war.

We inherited a deadline, we did not inherit a plan.

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) pointed out that Biden dismantled most every other Trump-era policy, including border-security measures, then blamed his predecessor when he followed through on ending the war.

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Monday’s hearing was largely a series of Democrats thanking Blinken and criticizing Trump’s peace deal with the Taliban, followed by Republicans blasting intelligence and planning failures during the withdrawal. Congressman Scott Perry (R-Pennsylvania) slammed the secretary for testifying remotely from the State Department, saying, “Couldn’t be bothered to come down here and see Congress? Alright, that’s great.”

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) called the withdrawal an “unmitigated disaster of epic proportions” and a “betrayal” of Afghan allies. He said the US had lost to terrorists, emboldening the Taliban and its adversaries in the region.

“This is an important question and one that in its detail and substance I think we need to take up in another setting,” Blinken said.

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