September 14, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) delivered remarks and questioned Secretary of State Tony Blinken on the Biden administration’s disastrous and botched withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Blinken testified at today’s Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing.
Click here to watch entire exchange.
On Pres. Biden Calling Afghanistan Evacuation a “Success”:
“President Biden has described the evacuation from Afghanistan as an ‘extraordinary success’. His words, ‘extraordinary success.’ This has to be the lie of the 21st century.
“It is dishonest, and if he believes it, it is delusional.
“America can no longer ever say we leave no American behind. Because Joe Biden did. And by your own testimony and your words this morning, there are still about 100 Americans trapped behind enemy lines.
“We have heard a lot about the 13 U.S. service members who died a couple of weeks ago. One was Rylee McCollum of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He was 20 years old. He signed up for the Marines on his 18th birthday.
“His wife, Gigi, expecting a baby. The baby was delivered just yesterday, a baby girl. I stood with Rylee’s family and his then pregnant wife on Friday in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, as his remains were brought back in a flag-draped coffin from Afghanistan. Never made it back home alive as a result of this administration's failures.
“People in Wyoming view this as having lost one of their sons, one of their children. It is a devastating loss. And they really do believe it is the administration who should hold the blame for what has occurred.
“This withdrawal – and you have heard it from other senators on both sides of the aisle – has been an epic failure. No planning, no strategy. It was cobbled together at the last minute, disorganized. It didn't have to be this way.
“I'm thinking back to your confirmation hearing. I raised a number of questions and concerns about your record on foreign policy failures in Syria, in Libya, in Iran.
“I said these botched decisions have serious consequences. I said I believe they embolden terrorist organizations around the globe.
“I said your decisions in the past have put men and women who serve our nation at risk because of these failures.
“And I think it would be a grave mistake to confirm a Secretary of State who has a demonstrated track record of repeatedly making the wrong decisions when it comes to American foreign policy and national security.
“The actions I've seen from you over the last seven months have proven my assessment to be correct. The Biden administration's missteps are numerous.
“Failed to start evacuation operations until the fall of Kabul in August, despite announcing the withdrawal in April.
“Failed to heed the warnings of a collapse of Afghan government and security forces in spite of warnings.
“Failed to prepare for a rapid Taliban takeover.
“Failed to adapt the politically-motivated deadline for withdraw to the situation taking place on the ground because we were so focused on the calendar on the wall.
“Failed to keep Bagram Air Force Base. A place I have visited eight or nine times, a U.S. military base. Two runways that could be used to help evacuate civilians.
“And as we just heard, failure to prevent a vast arsenal of weapons from getting into the hands of the Taliban.
“It seems the most egregious though that I hear about in Wyoming and people all across the country are most offended by is abandoning American citizens as well as abandoning our allies in Afghanistan.
“Senator Portman went over the numbers. The Washington Post called it ‘a moral disaster.’ I think it is a moral disgrace.
“You nearly dislocated your shoulder, though, patting yourself on the back for the great job you've done.
“Just yesterday, you stated ‘we did the right thing by our citizens in working feverishly to get every one of them out.’ But you didn’t get every one of them out. You admitted again and again, we’re talking about over 100 Americans.
“The top priority must always be getting all Americans home safely. Now, with no U.S. personnel in Afghanistan, the Americans that President Biden left behind – instead of going on national TV and saying we will not take the troops out until every American is out – their options for escaping are dwindling.
“So, I am trying to put this all together to say how did we end up here?
“In April, the president made a decision to announce everyone would be out by August 31. May 8th, there was a rehearsal of concept, which is a dress rehearsal for withdrawal. National Security Council was there, the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of Homeland Security, they were all there. My understanding is that you did not attend.
Is that true?”
“I know where you were. I think you should have been here instead.”
Click here to watch.
On State Dept. Calls to Slow Down Military Withdrawal:
“I understand in late June the State Department was getting nervous because the military drawdown was moving on schedule, but not the civilian drawdown. You were running behind.
“I understand the State Department was talking to the Defense Department to slow down the pace of military withdrawal, calling actually for ‘tapping the brakes on military withdrawal.’ Isn't that true?”
“In July, you got more warnings at the State Department, things were getting bad. When did the State Department formally make the request to the Department of Defense for military assisted evacuation, the Noncombatant Evacuation Operation? Because that is a Secretary or Ambassador job.”
“So, middle of August. Why did you wait so long?”
Click here to watch.
On Recognizing Taliban as a Terrorist Organization:
“Yesterday, you testified the Taliban has been designated a terrorist organization. I want to be very clear on this, because that is what you said yesterday. You said ‘the Taliban has been designated a terrorist organization.’ Does this administration believe the Taliban is a terrorist organization?”
“Under one of the designations. When does this administration plan to list the Taliban as a U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization?”
Click here to watch.
On Vetting Special Immigration Visa (SIV) Recipients:
“You testified this morning about the SIV washout rate, I think you said about 40 percent. What percentage of the Afghan population that left Afghanistan as part of the U.S. evacuation efforts, what percentage of those were vetted before they actually got on the airplanes?”
“I would just have to say, I spent time overseas last week talking to our NATO allies at a security conference, as well as with NATO individuals, and I’ll tell you, our enemies are emboldened and our allies are enraged.”
Click here to watch.