WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in the hot seat on Capitol Hill Tuesday as he endured a second round of grilling from lawmakers frustrated over how the Biden administration managed the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
From the start of the hearing, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee didn’t hold any punches, saying the administration didn’t do enough to ensure a smooth exit
“There’s not enough lipstick in this world to put on this pig to make it look any different,” rankin gmember Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, said.
Democratic chair of the committee agreed the administration should have worked faster to get Americans and eligible Afghans out of harm’s way.
“The U.S. withdrawal was clearly and fatally flawed,” Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., agreed. “The public deserves answers and the Afghan people certainly deserve answers.”
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said the chaotic withdrawal hurt the U.S.’s international standing.
“If you’re talking honestly to our adversaries, they will certainly say it’s a sign of weakness,” he said.
He worried Afghanistan will again become a safe haven for terrorists.
“Is Haqqani Network considered a terrorist group?” Portman asked of Blinken, referring to a militant organization that operates in Afgahnistan and Pakistan.
“It is,” Blinken replied.
“Is it true the interior minister (of Afghanistan) is a leader of the Haqquani Network?” Portman continued.
“That is accurate,” Blinken said.
“We have work to do,” Portman said.
Blinken said the U.S. will be keeping an eye on what’s happening in Afghanistan and work to combat threats as they emerge.
He also defended the strategy and said the Biden administration did the best with the cards it was dealt.
“(Biden) inherited an agreement that his predecessor had reached with the Taliban,” Blinken said.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., agreed.
“I think the expectations that the Republicans have created that we could have conducted this evacuation without confusion … is unrealistic,” he told reporters outside the hearing chambers.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin declined to testify Tuesday, but lawmakers say he could be subpoenaed in future hearings — of which there are expected to be several as lawmakers continue to seek answers about the ongoing humanitarian crisis and reports of human rights violations in Afghanistan.