Senate Democrats pledge to investigate Biden’s ‘flawed execution’ of Afghanistan withdrawal

Officials seek ‘full accounting’ of collapse and Donald Trump’s ‘flawed negotiations’ with Taliban

White House says 'fair amount' of US weapons now in Taliban hands

Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued a scathing assessment of Joe Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and pledged his committee would investigate its “flawed execution.”

The senator said the committee would “seek a full accounting” of the US exit, Donald Trump’s “flawed negotiations” with the Taliban, and the Biden administration’s failure to anticipate the rapid collapse of Afghan security forces despite assurances.

“Congress was told repeatedly that the Afghan Defense and Security Forces were up to the task, that it had the troops, equipment and willingness to fight,” the senator said in a statement issued by the committee on 17 August.

“To see this army dissolve so quickly after billions of dollars in US support is astounding,” he said. “The American and Afghan people clearly have not been told the truth about [Afghan security forces’] capacity and deserve answers.”

The statement from Senator Menendez and other top Democrats – including Senator Mark Warner, who chairs the Intelligence Committee – follows insistent criticism and inflammatory remarks from Republican officials as the Taliban accelerated its takeover.

Senator Warner said he intends to “ask tough but necessary questions about why we weren’t better prepared for a worst-case scenario involving such a swift and total collapse of the Afghan government and security forces.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday that “anyone who is a critic that any president has to make difficult choices as commander in chief” and that “the president made the choice that he would not ask US servicemen and women to fight a war that the Afghans were not willing to fight for themselves.”

A White House statement from US Central Command Frank McKenzie on Tuesday asserts that the airfield at Hamid Karzai International Airport is “secure and now open to civilian air traffic operating under visual flight rules.”

He said he has “cautioned” Taliban leaders “against interference in our evacuation, and made it clear to them that any attack would be met with overwhelming force in the defense of our forces,” according to his statement.

“The protection of US civilians and our partners is my highest priority and we will take all necessary action to ensure a safe and efficient withdrawal,” he said. “To that end, we are prepared to fully support US Embassy efforts to process and evacuate US citizens, partners, special visa applicants, and Afghans at risk.”

A group of US senators have also urged the State Department and Homeland Security to create a special “humanitarian parole category” to fast track the visa protections for women leaders, human rights organisers, journalists and others vulnerable in Afghanistan.

Ms Psaki told reporters that 11,000 US citizens are in Afghanistan.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday that US officials do not have a “complete picture” of the status of its military equipment, nor does the US have a sense that the Taliban will “readily hand it over to us.”

Following reports that the president rejected guidance from his top generals to maintain 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan, Mr Sullivan said that the idea that maintaining such a small force in the country could have sustained peace is “simply wrong.”

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