WORLD US Congress to probe bungled Afghan pullout

WORLD

US Congress to probe bungled Afghan pullout

China Daily Global

16:43, August 19, 2021

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid (left) leaves after giving the group's first news conference in Kabul on Tuesday following the group's stunning takeover of Afghanistan. (Photo: AFP)

Rival camps find rare consensus to press for answers as Biden ratings fall

Members of the US Congress, including many of President Joe Biden's fellow Democrats, said on Tuesday they were troubled by how the troop withdrawal was carried out in Afghanistan and have vowed to investigate what went wrong.

"The events of recent days have been the culmination of a series of mistakes made by Republican and Democratic administrations over the past 20 years," Senator Bob Menendez, Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.

"We are now witnessing the horrifying result of many years of policy and intelligence failures."

Menendez said his committee would hold a hearing on US policy toward Afghanistan, with plans to look into the negotiations between the administration of Republican Donald Trump and the Taliban and execution of the troop withdrawal by the Biden administration.

Committee Republicans said they wanted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to testify, "to understand why the State Department was so ill prepared for the contingencies unfolding before us", according to a letter sent to Menendez.

"Updates from the State Department have been inconsistent, lacked important detail, and not be responsive to members and the American people," the Republicans wrote.

The date of the hearing was not immediately announced.

Senator Mark Warner, the Democratic Intelligence Committee chairman, had said on Monday he intended to work with other committees "to ask tough but necessary questions" about why the United States was not better prepared for the collapse of the Afghan government.

Republicans have continued their harsh criticism of Biden's policies.

"The security and humanitarian crisis now unfolding in Afghanistan could have been avoided if you had done any planning," Republicans on the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee wrote in a letter to the White House on Tuesday.

The recent scenes of chaos in Kabul appear to have dented Biden's popularity.

His approval rating dropped by 7 percentage points, hitting its lowest level, after the Afghan government collapsed over the weekend, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

The poll, conducted on Monday, found that 46 percent of respondents approved of Biden's performance in office, the lowest recorded in weekly polls that started when Biden entered the White House in January.

It is also down from the 53 percent who felt the same way in a similar Reuters/Ipsos poll that ran on Friday.

Biden's popularity dropped as the Taliban entered Kabul, wiping away two decades of US military presence that cost nearly $1 trillion.

However, a majority of both Republican and Democratic voters said the chaos was a sign that the US should leave.

Worse than predecessors

A separate Ipsos snap poll, also conducted on Monday, found that fewer than half of voters liked the way Biden has steered the US military and diplomatic effort in Afghanistan this year. The president, who just last month praised Afghan forces for being "as well-equipped as any in the world", was rated worse than the other three presidents who presided over the country's longest war.

The US and Western allies continued to evacuate diplomats and civilians on Tuesday, one day after Afghans crowded into Kabul's airport in a desperate attempt to flee.

About 44 percent of respondents said they thought Biden has done a "good job" in Afghanistan. In comparison, 51 percent praised the way his predecessors Trump and Barack Obama handled the war.

Approval of Biden's handling of Afghanistan is even lower than that of George W. Bush, the Republican president who ordered the Afghanistan invasion. About 47 percent of respondents felt that Bush did a good job in Afghanistan.

Forty percent of registered voters said in the Reuters/Ipsos poll that they would vote for a Democrat in next year's congressional elections, while 37 percent said they would back a Republican.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the US. It gathered responses from 947 adults, including 403 Democrats and 350 Republicans. The Ipsos online snap poll gathered responses from 1,000 people, including 443 Democrats and 247 Republicans.

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