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Blinken Admits: 'Several Thousand' Americans Stranded Behind Enemy Lines in Afghanistan

AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool

Secretary of State Antony Blinken testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday, and the dynamic he faced was a familiar one: Democrats largely used the opportunity to defend the Biden administration and ask "questions" designed to further a political narrative friendly to the White House, while Republicans were far more hostile.  Members of both parties speechified and preened.  But some news did emerge from the performance, in which the star witness appeared virtually from his office down the street.  A COVID precaution, you see -- even as packed, mostly-maskless events like the Met Gala (with a few members of Congress in attendance) and Monday Night Football dominated social media later that evening.  For what it's worth, Blinken has actually shown up in person for the Senate hearing today.  In my mind, there were three takeaways from Blinken's House testimony.  First:


This sound byte was served up under friendly questioning, as a Democratic Congressman sought to paint a picture of the Trump administration being at fault for the Biden administration's historic policy failure.  It's a snappy line, but it's doesn't make a good point.  Team Biden did inherit a deadline for withdrawal, which they discarded and delayed shortly after taking office.  They like to pretend that it was set in stone and inherited, so their hands were tied, but they themselves had already moved it.  Why?

Oops.  Beyond that, Blinken himself acknowledged that the Taliban was already in violation of the terms they'd agreed to under the Trump-era deal.  In other words, the "deadline" and deal they "inherited" had already been vitiated by the enemy, and the new American administration had made a conscious choice to move the supposedly set-in-stone date.  This was likely done with the symbolic date of 9/11 in mind, for political purposes, but Blinken says it was to facilitate a smooth withdrawal, a task that obviously crashed and burned.  As for the withdrawal plan point, some Trump officials say there actually was a set of recommendations handed off to Biden, who promptly ignored them.  That's different than 'no plan.'  And even if Blinken wants to parse out what would have constituted a proper plan, withdrawal was ultimately Biden's decision and policy.  The president has reminded us of this over and over again.  The drawdown happened on his watch, while he was Commander-in-Chief, after he had offered specific assurances and issued critical promises to Americans and American allies in-country.  It was his administration's job to craft and execute successful plan.  And we've all seen what has happened.  Second:


This jumped out at me, as well.  I don't take the administration at its word about the number of Americans stranded in Afghanistan for a number of reasons, but based on their own public statements over recent weeks, the number of US citizens still stuck in Afghanistan has barely budged.  It's been more than two weeks since American forces left the country, despite the president's unequivocal promise that boots would remain on the ground until every American had been evacuated (he'd vowed something similar to our allies).  Progress has been weak, it seems, even as private rescue operations work tirelessly to salvage the situation.  Relatedly, third:

"Several thousand" hits a little differently than the "about 100 Americans" number they've been repeating endlessly for two weeks, doesn't it?  The administration had been squirrelly about this number, excluding the tally from the number of 'Americans' they were willing to admit had been stranded in Afghanistan.  The New York Times reported that the number could be in the thousands, and now the Secretary of State has finally admitted it.  Sen. Ben Sasse immediately released this statement:


“After lying about this slow-motion hostage crisis for weeks and stonewalling requests for hard numbers, Secretary Blinken just admitted to Congress that ‘several thousand’ American green card holders are still trapped in Afghanistan. This is a national humiliation. Let’s be very clear about this: These men and women are legal permanent residents of the United States. When America gives someone a green card, it’s a promise that their permanent home is here in the United States with us. President Biden abandoned thousands of these American residents behind Taliban lines to fend for themselves. He has a duty to bring every single American citizen and green card holder home. No more happy talk about the blood-thirsty Taliban — get our people home.”

Within the context of immigration, Democrats often wield a capacious rhetorical definition of who counts as an American, but not here. Biden and company were suddenly sticklers about referring only to US citizens as "Americans," likely because they didn't want to confirm that thousands of Americans had in fact been abandoned in Afghanistan, making the president's shattered promise look even worse.  As for the tens of thousands of Afghan allies who actively supported NATO operations over the years, earning a promise of protection from the United States?  They're being treated as disposable by this administration:


Incidentally, Blinken also said that the Taliban had pledged not to harbor Al Qaeda, as they notoriously did prior to 9/11.  This "pledge" might be more convincing if they hadn't just placed a high-profile, 'most wanted' Al Qaeda terrorist in their 'government.'  I'll leave you with this from earlier today, which constitutes quite a departure from the water-carrying partisan hackery we witnessed yesterday from lower chamber Democrats:


Perhaps Senators will get to the bottom of this announcement, which looks to many observers like a thinly-veiled ransom payment or bribe to the Taliban (to whom we've already effectively gifted American military equipment and weapons valued in the tens of billions), assurances about cash flow conduits notwithstanding:

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