Washington — Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, said Sunday that many people are to blame for the Biden administration's handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was marked by images of desperate Afghansmoving military aircraft and scores of people descending on the main airport in Kabul after the Taliban regained control of the country.
"I think there's a lot of people that bear blame and the secretary of state is one of these, and I think it would be nice — and keep in mind, even under the prior president I would say this exact thing — for some people to just take responsibility. That's what the American people want, is somebody to stand up and say, 'Look, this is on me,'"Kinzinger said in an interview on "Face the Nation," referencing Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Blinken is scheduled to testify Monday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which will be the first time lawmakers have the chance to ask the secretary of state questions about the Biden administration's plan to pull U.S. troops out of the country and evacuate Americans.
Kinzinger is a member of the House panel that will hear from Blinken, and said in the case of the secretary of state, an order to remove all Americans from Afghanistan should have come when the Afghan military began to collapse in the face of threats from the Taliban.
"When we began to see that fall apart, that's when the order should have been given to basically enter a defensive posture and get everybody out we can and not have to wait to three days prior because a lot of us were watching this happen. We were talking about it and it's like it wasn't a surprise to many of us," he said.
Kinzinger said he is averse to "armchair quarterbacking," but said there are many people well-versed in military strategy and policy that could have ensured a smoother withdrawal, while sticking with the decision to leave the country.
"There were a couple of key points. We always talk about the air base in Bagram. We could have defended that until every American was out and every Afghan SIV was out," he said. "Secondarily, let's say that we still shut down that air base and we were down to that last week prior to the complete collapse of the Afghan government, that's when those 6,000 Marines and soldiers that rushed into the Kabul airport actually could have pushed out and defended Kabul proper, the city, because the Taliban at that point had no interest in coming into the city yet. And we could have had the evacuation on our timetable as quickly as we could."
Now that the U.S. no longer has a military presence in Afghanistan, Kinzinger said he has not yet heard a strategy from the Biden administration to combat the threat from al Qaeda, which the intelligence community has predicted could reconstitute in as little as 12 months.
"I've heard nothing but that nebulous over-the-horizon strike capability," he said.
Kinzinger also discussed ato protest the scores of people who have been charged for their alleged roles in the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, which far-right extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers are expected to attend.
The Illinois Republican confirmed fencing is set to go back up around the Capitol grounds in anticipation of the event, and he is expecting to be briefed on security for the rally this week.
"Everybody has a right, obviously, to protest and nobody would argue that. But George W. Bush said an amazing thing in his speech yesterday when he said, he talked about al Qaeda and domestic terrorists. And he said they may be culturally very different, but they're 'children of the same foul spirit.' And they seek to basically divide people that are different than them," Kinzinger said. "This is why it's important that we as Republicans, frankly, and as Americans, stand up and say we shouldn't be at this point where we are truly worried for the seat of government every few months when there is a protest. So I hope it goes off well. I have a lot of faith in our law enforcement and hopefully we'll find out more this week."
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