Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to have a rough start to the week: He testifies before Congress twice in two days over all things related to Afghanistan. First comes a 2pm hearing on Monday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, followed by a Tuesday appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "We expect a confrontational hearing," an anonymous Senate aide tells Reuters, in what might be an understatement.
- The stakes: In terms of politics, expect Republicans to try to present a picture of an inept White House that bungled the withdrawal, per Axios. Democrats, on the other hand, will attempt to deflect blame and point to former President Trump's Taliban negotiations that led to the initial withdrawal deadline.
- From the GOP: "I imagine there will be a lot of questions on what decisions were being made leading up to the withdrawal, including why the White House pressed DOD (the Defense Department) to withdraw troops before we evacuated American civilians and our Afghan partners," says Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House panel, per Reuters.
- From Democrats: "My No. 1 question for Secretary Blinken: Can you describe for us now the detailed and well-considered plan prepared by the Trump administration for how we would get out of Afghanistan in an orderly way?" says Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman, per Axios. Adds Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, per Reuters: "My fear is that Republicans are going to turn this into a circus and try to put the blame on Joe Biden for 20 years' worth of mistakes in Afghanistan."
- Wide scope: Blinken is expected to be pressed on how the US plans to deal with the new Taliban government, per the Wall Street Journal—as well as on a host of other issues including the vetting process for Afghan evacuees, the number of Americans still left in the country, whether the White House was caught flat-footed by the rapid Taliban takeover, and the suicide attack that killed 13 US service members last month.
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