Rawstory is reporting that on Monday, a congressional hearing on the withdrawal from Afghanistan devolved into shouting and chaos after Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) accused Secretary of State Anthony Blinken of treason and then refused to allow him to respond.
Mast began questioning Blinken by holding up photos of soldiers who died in Afghanistan during the withdrawal and implying that President Joe Biden manipulated intelligence to justify his departure from the country.
Former President Donald Trump made the announcement before the 2020 election that he was withdrawing troops from the country after reaching an agreement with the Taliban.
“They deserve to know if President Biden manipulated intelligence and that’s what led to everything going so wrong,” claimed Mast. “We deserve hearings on what’s going on with that leaked transcript and why there are others that remain in Afghanistan.”
He went on to say that Biden had left the country with “the most advanced military weaponry.” Republicans have falsely claimed that the country has abandoned $85 billion in military equipment.
According to a report released last week, the remaining weaponry was either destroyed or rendered useless. According to Al Jazeera, the Taliban was “disappointed” that they ended up with nothing beneficial in the end.
Mast also called the administration’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan “absolutely aid and comfort to the enemy,” which is treason under the law.
“Simply put, Congressman, what you said is dead wrong!” Blinken shot back.
“I don’t have time,” Mast interrupted. “I don’t wish to hear your lies!”
“There was no manipulation of intelligence, period!” Blinken interjected.
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) interjected at this point and attempted to allow Blinken to respond, but Mast continued to shout above him.
“Had he not followed through on his predecessor’s commitment, attacks on our forces and those of our allies would have resumed and the Taliban’s nationwide assault on Afghanistan’s major cities would have commenced,” Blinken said.
“Within two weeks of taking office, we restarted the SIV interview process in Kabul. On February 4th, one of the first executive orders issued by President Biden directed us to immediately review the SIV program to identify causes of undue delay and find ways to process SIV applications more quickly,” Blinken said. He added that efforts to get Americans and allies out of Afghanistan have been moving forward and will continue until every American citizen who wants to leave is out. He said “about 100” American citizens with intentions of leaving remain in Afghanistan.
Rep. Greg Steube, (R-FL) ahead of the hearing, told Fox News he planned to press Blinken on why the Biden administration was caught flat-footed by the swift collapse of the Afghan government.
“We knew that we saw all this coming. We have some of the best intelligence capabilities in the world,” Steube said. “They just stood by and watched the Taliban take over Afghanistan.”
Blinken maintained the speed of the government’s fall was a surprise.
“Even the most pessimistic assessments did not predict that government forces in Kabul would collapse while U.S. forces remained. As General (Mark) Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said, ‘Nothing I or anyone else saw indicated a collapse of this army and this government in 11 days,’” Blinken said.
The hearing was used by lawmakers to criticize the leadership of each other’s parties.
Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, described the administration’s handling of the withdrawal as “a disgrace” and “maybe the worst foreign Affairs disaster in American history.”
Committee chair Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., said the real disaster was “a war that has gone on for almost 20 years.”
“Disentangling ourselves from the war in Afghanistan was never going to be easy. And for my friends who presume a clean solution for the withdrawal existed. I would welcome hearing what exactly a smooth withdrawal from a messy chaotic 20-year war looks like,” Meeks said.
Blinken was later questioned about the plans the Trump administration had left behind for the agreed-upon evacuation and withdrawal. “We were given a deadline. We did not inherit a strategy “Blinken explained.
The hearing is the first of several on the withdrawal scheduled for this month.
Blinken testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the Intelligence and Armed Services committees will hold closed-door hearings later this week. On September 28, top military officials, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, are scheduled to testify publicly before the Senate Armed Services Committee.