Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) grilled Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a hearing on Tuesday over President Joe Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The withdrawal resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen U.S. soldiers in a suicide attack and dozens of Americans being left behind in the country.
Cruz called the Biden administration’s foreign policy decisions in Afghanistan “the worst foreign policy catastrophe in a generation,” adding that America’s enemies have been “emboldened” by Biden’s weakness.
Cruz pressed Blinken on whether the administration gave the Taliban a list of Americans or Afghans that wanted out, which Blinken denied. However, just moments later, Cruz got Blinken to admit that the administration gave the Taliban manifests, listing the names of people that were supposed to be getting on flights to leave the country, effectively contradicting Blinken’s previous statement.
Cruz also grilled Blinken on reports that children were and are being abused and forced to marry older Afghan men so they can leave Afghanistan.
Sen. Cruz: President Biden and the Biden administration have presided over the worst foreign policy catastrophe in a generation. Americans across the nation are horrified. Our servicemen and women are active duty military are angry. They’re disillusioned, and they’re frustrated. Our enemies across the globe are emboldened, which makes the world more dangerous today for America, and our allies are dispirited. Ever since the disaster began unfolding in Afghanistan, we’ve seen the Biden administration making political excuses. We’ve seen Democrats on this committee explaining at great length, how everything that happened in Afghanistan is Trump’s fault. ‘It’s all Trump’s fault.’ Mr. Secretary, Joe Biden is the President of the United States, Kamala Harris is the Vice President of the United States. You are the United States Secretary of State. Just like Jimmy Carter owns the disaster of the Iran hostage crisis, you own this. The Biden administration caused this disaster. It was caused by two things. Number one, ideological naiveté and extremism. Repeatedly, Mr. Secretary, in this hearing, and also on multiple conference calls over the last month, you keep saying things like, ‘The steps the Taliban needs to take to be welcomed into the community of civilized nations.’ Mr. Secretary, they don’t want to be welcomed into the community of civilized nations. They are terrorists who want to murder us. This administration doesn’t understand that Joe Biden doesn’t understand that. But sadly, that ideological extremism was combined with manifest incompetence. There were four decisions this administration made that I think were utterly indefensible. Number one, abandoning the Bagram Airfield, giving it to the Taliban. That is a decision that 100 years from now will be studied at war colleges as a colossal strategic mistake. Giving up the secure airfields, necessitating an evacuation from a dense urban environment, a commercial airport, which led tragically, to the suicide bombings and murders that killed 13 American servicemen and women. And had we been evacuating from Bagram with a secure perimeter, the odds are quite high, that attack either wouldn’t have happened or if it had happened, it would have been far less severe in its consequences. Secondly, the Biden administration giving the Taliban a list of Americans and of Afghans we wanted out. Third, the decision to leave Americans behind, hundreds of Americans perhaps more perhaps thousands, thousands of green card holders, tens of thousands of Afghans who assisted the U.S. military, the Biden administration abandon them and left them behind. Forth, leaving billions of dollars of American military equipment that the Taliban will now use to threaten our lives. Earlier in this hearing you said about that equipment, ‘None of it poses a strategic threat to us or their neighbors.’ That does not pass the laugh test when you’re looking at the Taliban potentially having 64,000 machine guns, 33 Blackhawk helicopters, 16,000 night vision goggles – we will see American blood spilled because of these colossal mistakes. Now, abandoning Bagram wasn’t your call, it was the Pentagon’s and the White House’s ultimately. But I want to ask you flat out, did the State Department give the Taliban a list or multiple list of Americans and or Afghans that we wanted out?
Secretary Blinken: Those reports and the idea that we would do anything to endanger our citizens or anyone else at a time when we were trying to save their lives is flat out wrong. Let me-
Sen. Cruz: So I’d just like a yes or no. Did you give them the list?
Secretary Blinken: Senator, if I may, please. Thank you. In limited instances, where we were seeking to get a bus, or a group of people through a checkpoint, we gave a manifest to the people at the checkpoint to demonstrate that those people were expected.
Sen. Cruz: Roughly how many names were on the list you gave them?
Secretary Blinken: Doesn’t matter, because they all-
Sen. Cruz: Dozens, hundreds, thousands – give us some order of magnitude.
Secretary Blinken: This happened in a handful of situations where to get through-
Sen. Cruz: Dozens? So is it your testimony it wasn’t hundreds? I want to understand, did you give them thousands of names?
Secretary Blinken: No, we did not.
Sen. Cruz: Okay. Hundreds?
Secretary Blinken: Not going to put a number on it, but it was, again-
Sen. Cruz: Why not? This is a hearing to discover how many names and how many of those individuals you gave the Taliban the name to had been targeted for torture or murder.
Secretary Blinken: Senator by definition, these were in limited instances with a bus or a group of people to get them through a checkpoint. They got through the checkpoint.
Sen. Cruz: So not only did you fail to evacuate Americans and green card holders who were there, but you also brought in tens of thousands of Afghans who had wholly inadequate vetting, bringing many of them to the United States. And one of the things that has done is that has brought in a humanitarian crisis to America. Child marriage and domestic abuse tragically are widespread in Afghanistan. According to the World Health Organization, more than half of the women in Afghanistan are married as child brides, and 90 percent of women are subject to domestic abuse – 90 percent. On August 27, according to public reports, you distributed internal documentation, highlighting numerous instances and intake centers of sexual abuse, in which much older grown Afghan males appeared with children, young children, claimed they were their brides, claimed they were their wives. And the documents said the State Department urgently requested guidance. That was your word, ‘urgently.’ Subsequently, the Department of Homeland Security said that it showed the desperation of families, that they were willing to give little girls to grown men to be subject to sexual abuse and child wives. My question is as follows: Did you receive that urgent guidance? How many children have been subject to sexual abuse? What have you done to rescue young children from illegal and abusive relationships after being brought to America by the State Department?
Secretary Blinken: Across the entire government, everyone involved in the evacuation effort whether it’s at a transit point, in one of the countries that we negotiated with, whether it’s here in the United States at Dulles, or Philadelphia, or the military bases, we have all of our officers at extreme vigilance to look for and to deal with any cases or concerns that arise.”
Sen. Cruz: Did you receive the urgent guidance and how many child brides have you seen?
Secretary Blinken: I don’t know the specific guidance you’re referring to. I’m happy to look at it.
Sen. Cruz: So is there not urgency to discover if children are being abused?
Secretary Blinken: Absolutely, absolutely. We could we could detect and deal with any cases. And there have been, to my knowledge, a limited number of cases where we have separated people because we were concerned that they were-
Sen. Cruz: How many?
Secretary Blinken: The cases I’m aware of? A handful.
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