House Foreign Affairs Committee gavels in for hearing with Blinken on the Afghanistan withdrawal.

Chairman Greg Meeks (D-N.Y.) starts off hitting Trump:

“Trump’s deal forced the Afghan government to release 5,000 prisoners and offered international legitimacy to the Taliban.”
“We are seeing domestic politics injected into foreign policy,” Meeks says of GOP criticisms of Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal.
“This was an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions. I never thought in my lifetime that I would see an unconditional surrender to the Taliban,” HFAC top Republican McCaul says.
McCaul accuses Blinken of “betrayal,” noting that thousands of Afghan SIVs were left behind.

“Our standing on the world stage has been greatly diminshed.”

• • •

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More from @AndrewDesiderio

15 Sep
Exclusive: Lindsey Graham is taking extraordinary steps to boost Afghanistan’s resistance leaders, connecting Amrullah Saleh & Ahmad Massoud with diplomats, lobbyists & influential media figures.

He even booked Saleh on Fox’s Hannity on Aug. 27.

Lawmakers & lobbyists tipped POLITICO off to Graham’s efforts & Graham himself confirmed his work in his characteristic free-wheeling style. The freelance PR from a minority-party senator underscores the precarious status of the debate about engaging w/ Taliban-led govt in Kabul.
It also shows that, even w/ Trump out of power, the gregarious Graham has a unique ability to influence D.C.’s political machinery.

“I want his voice out,” Graham told me of Saleh. “I’m gonna go all in. [The Taliban are] holding our people hostage. They’re a terrorist group.”
Read 6 tweets
14 Sep
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) comes out swinging at Blinken, saying the Afghanistan withdrawal was “clearly and fatally flawed.”

“There has to be accountability,” Menendez adds.
Menendez reiterates that “successive administrations” have “lied” to Congress about the “durability” of the Afghan security forces.
Menendez says that while he supported the withdrawal, the way in which we left matters.

“Doing the right thing in the wrong way can end up being the wrong thing,” Menendez says.
Read 4 tweets
2 Sep
NEW: Hundreds of U.S. citizens & Afghan commandos were secretly evacuated thru a CIA base outside Kabul amid heightened risks of a terror attack at HKIA

New details of the operation via docs & sources in the admin & on the Hill, w/@laraseligman @ErinBanco…
@laraseligman @ErinBanco The Americans & at-risk Afghans + their families were instructed to head to Eagle Base as the U.S. was warning of an ISIS-K attack at HKIA. 1,000+ Afghan commandos & their families were successfully evacuated via Eagle. Full scope of the operation hadn’t been previously reported.
Several helicopter flights operated by a U.S. company flew from an area around Eagle Base to the Kabul airport beginning on Aug. 15, when the Taliban took control of the city, according to flight data obtained by POLITICO.
Read 4 tweets
29 Aug
.@jaketapper presses Sullivan on our reporting—since confirmed by Biden, Blinken, Gen. Taylor, & even Sullivan here—that the U.S. provided evac lists to the Taliban.

Admin does not dispute that lists were provided, & insists it wasn’t done in a way that put people at risk.
That assessment contradicts that of senior officials & lawmakers from both parties we spoke to. Concern is that including Afghans especially on those lists will expose them to brutal retribution (Taliban as we know has been doing this in recent wks) *after* the U.S. leaves.
Secretary of State Blinken acknowledged on @MeetThePress this morning that lists were provided. Again, admin insists this was done safely.

“In specific instances when you're trying to get a bus or a group of people need to show a manifest to do that.”
Read 7 tweets
23 Aug
Big: Rep. Crow (D-Colo.) after intel briefing tells me he doesn’t think it’s possible to get everyone out of Afghanistan by August 31.

He’s urging Biden to keep troops there despite what the Taliban is saying about sticking to August 31.

“These are our people,” he says.
SCHIFF, too, tells me it’s highly unlikely that the evacuations will finish by August 31. Like Crow, he says Biden should do whatever is necessary to finish the job.
Schiff also says after the intel briefing that the threat to the Kabul airport is very real and substantial.
Read 4 tweets
20 Aug
NEW: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a briefing call with House lawmakers just now said Americans have been beaten by the Taliban in Kabul, according to multiple people on the call. Austin called it “unacceptable.”
This statement alone from Austin contradicts a lot of what Biden just said at the White House about Americans not having a hard time getting to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
Pentagon Press Sec John Kirby addressed this just now, per @laraseligman:

“We’ve communicated to the Taliban that that is absolutely unacceptable and we want free passage through these checkpoints for documented Americans. ... By and large, that’s happening.”
Read 6 tweets

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