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Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., angrily objected to the Biden administration’s efforts in Afghanistan, unfurling searing criticism over the pace by which the U.S. is evacuating allies from the country.
“I am deeply dissatisfied, in fact, downright upset with the lagging laggard efforts in evacuating Afghan allies from that country,” Blumenthal told Fox News’ Chad Pergram after a closed-door briefing Wednesday. “I have heard nothing that reassures me that the pace or intensity will increase.”
Blumenthal’s comments come after Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testified before two Senate Committees in a private session Wednesday regarding the progress of the U.S. evacuation effort in Afghanistan. Many Republican lawmakers said the briefing should have been open.
“It is imperative that a portion of this joint hearing be open to the public so that American families and all impacted by the botched withdrawal can hear directly from secretaries Blinken and Austin,” a letter from 18 GOP senators to the chairs of the Armed Services Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee stated.
“We understand the importance of also having a closed portion of this hearing to discuss sensitive or classified information but cannot allow this opportunity to pass without ensuring that the American people get answers from the Biden administration,” the letter added.
Blumenthal’s comments were echoed by Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., who said Americans “deserve to hear” from those responsible for the situation in Afghanistan.
“I am frustrated after today’s briefing with Secretary Austin and Secretary Blinken,” Fischer said. “This briefing should have been open to the public. Instead, it took place behind closed doors, and administration officials purposefully stonewalled, limiting senators’ opportunities to ask important questions.
“Nebraskans have not forgotten the terrorist attack at the Kabul airport that killed one of our own. No one has been held accountable.”
The hearings come after Qatar reached an agreement with the Taliban this week to resume chartered evacuation flights out of Afghanistan for thousands of U.S. allies still stuck in the country after last year’s chaotic withdrawal, ending a pause in the evacuation effort that has now spanned nearly six months.
The long process has caused concern among some lawmakers, with Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., telling CBS News Tuesday that the Biden administration should have to publicly answer questions about what has gone wrong.
“It ought to be an open hearing,” Scott said of Wednesday’s hearing. “The American public needs to know exactly what happened.
“We need the facts. Why did we leave so much equipment behind? Why did we lose members of the military? Why was it so much chaos?”