What did US Secretary of State Blinken say regarding the US withdrawal from Afghanistan?
The secretary defended Biden's decision to evacuate and laid the blame for the disaster at Donald Trump's door: "We did not inherit a plan."
The Secretary of State was present at a congressional hearing after the August evacuation from Afghanistan. It lasted five hours, and Blinken was assaulted by determined Republicans, who criticized the Secretary of State for leaving people behind with little plan how to rescue them.
Blinken's main defense was the terms of the withdrawal agreement negotiated under the Trump presidency, as well as his belief that a longer stay would not have changed the overall outcome in Afghanistan.
What did Blinken say?
"There's no evidence that staying longer would have made the Afghan security forces or the Afghan government any more resilient or self-sustaining," Blinken said.
"If 20 years and hundreds of billions of dollars in support, equipment, and training did not suffice, why would another year, or five, or ten, make a difference?"
"We inherited a deadline. We did not inherit a plan," Blinken said, referring to the Trump administration's agreement to remove all US forces from Afghanistan by May 1.
Much of the Republican focus was on those left behind in Afghanistan.
"As of last week, there were about 100 American citizens in Afghanistan who told us they wish to leave the country," said Mr Blinken, adding that the number represents "a snapshot in time."
He noted that last week, the US offered evacuation "seats" to 60 of them, and only 30 accepted.
Other questions dealt with the date of the withdrawal, something that had been organized under President Trump but had been tweaked by Biden.
"Upon taking office, President Biden immediately faced the choice between ending the war or escalating it," Mr Blinken argued on Monday.
The Taliban "made very clear that if we moved past that deadline", it would resume its attacks.
Blinken also vowed to send $64 million in aid to Afghanistan, but pledged to send it through the UN and other international agencies to prevent misuse by the Taliban.
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Taliban commit atrocities in conquered Panjshir
As the hearing was ongoing, the BBC reported on atrocities committed by the Taliban in the Panjshir valley, the last area of Afghanistan to surrender to the Taliban. The BBC says they can verify at least 20 deaths. One was a shopkeeper whose body was thrown to his doorstep after evidence of torture, say eyewitnesses.
The Taliban claimed they would not act in retribution against those suspected of fighting or conspiring against them, but evidence is quickly emerging of scenes to the contrary.
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