As the Biden administration faces criticism for the chaotic evacuation from Afghanistan, Secretary of State Tony Blinken will defend the way the evacuation was carried out – including the pre-planning that took place – in his prepared opening remarks before the House Foreign Affairs Committee this afternoon.
“We planned and exercised a wide range of contingencies. Because of that planning, we were able to draw down our embassy and move our remaining personnel to the airport within 48 hours. And the military – placed on stand-by by the President – was able to secure the airport and start the evacuation within 72 hours,” Blinken will say, noting that no one expected the collapse to happen as quickly as it did.
The nation’s top diplomat will describe the evacuation of 124,000 people as “an extraordinary effort – under the most difficult conditions imaginable – by our diplomats, military, and intelligence professionals.”
He will say that by the end of August, the US government got out “almost all” of the Afghans and Americans who were still in Afghanistan and wanted to get out.
Blinken will detail how the vast effort to get those Americans and Afghans out of the country – alongside US allies – began in the spring as President Biden made his decision to withdraw US troops from the country.
“In advance of the President’s decision, I was in constant contact with our Allies and partners to hear their views and factor them into our thinking. When the President announced the withdrawal, NATO immediately and unanimously embraced it. We all set to work – together – on the drawdown,” Blinken plans to say.
“Similarly, we were intensely focused on the safety of Americans in Afghanistan. In March, we began urging them to leave the country. In total, between March and August, we sent 19 specific messages with that warning – and with offers of help, including financial assistance to pay for plane tickets," he will continue.
Blinken will also echo President Biden in saying that the emergency evacuation “was sparked by the collapse of the Afghan security forces and government.”
Read more about today's hearing here.