A Republican lawmaker who lost both of his legs while serving in Afghanistan tore into Secretary of State Antony Blinken during testimony Monday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, telling him Americans “don’t need to hear lies” regarding the Biden administration’s turbulent, deadly pullout late last month.
The hearing was Blinken’s first public opportunity to explain and answer for the administration’s actions. He is scheduled to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, where he is certain to face additional grilling from Republicans who are equally upset that the evacuation was chaotic and resulted in the loss of 13 U.S. military personnel to a suicide bomber.
At times, the House testimony turned emotional, as it did when Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) appeared to lose patience with the nation’s top diplomat in a sometimes heated back-and-forth.
Mast opened his inquiry by referencing a leaked phone call between President Joe Biden and the former Afghan president in July, in which the U.S. leader suggested both knew the Taliban was likely to take over Afghanistan as American troops were drawn down. But instead of taking action against Taliban advances, Biden urged Ghani to simply change the narrative that his forces would adequately protect the country “whether it is true or not.”
13 American heroes are dead because of the arrogance, incompetence and ineptitude of this Administration. Secretary Blinken must be held accountable. pic.twitter.com/EHSdBep6Ql
— Rep. Brian Mast (@RepBrianMast) September 13, 2021
“I need not tell you the perception around the world and in parts of Afghanistan, I believe, is that things are not going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban,” Biden told Ghani. “And there is a need, whether it’s true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.”
The lawmaker pressed Blinken about whether Biden “worked with the coward ex-president of Afghanistan to manipulate the intelligence” about Taliban capabilities.
Blinken, who testified via video link, responded by claiming that Biden’s private conversation with Ghani was the same as what he claimed in public — that the U.S. president was merely voicing concerns about the “will and the plan” of the Afghan forces to withstand the enemy advance.
“You’re saying the transcript is a lie, it’s false, it’s incorrect — he did not work to tamp down the intelligence on the Taliban,” Mast interjected.
“Absolutely not,” Blinken shot back.
“So the transcript is incorrect, that’s your testimony?” Mast responded, adding that in his view, that’s “the most likely explanation” after the administration “got it so wrong” regarding the Taliban.
Mast went on to hold up photos of the 13 dead service members — 11 Marines, two U.S. Army soldiers, and a Navy corpsman — and call them by name, telling Blinken on several occasions that their families deserve to know the truth about what took place in the months prior to the U.S. pullout.
“They deserve to know if you manipulated intelligence — if President Biden manipulated intelligence — and that’s what led to everything going so wrong,” Mast continued.
“I do not believe whatsoever what you’re saying about the administration not working to manipulate that intelligence. To me, that is the most logical — the most logical — of how so many in the intelligence community got this so wrong about what was going to happen in Afghanistan,” Mast told Blinken.
The Florida Republican and former special operations explosives ordnance disposal expert who stepped on an IED in September 2010 went on to suggest that Blinken may also be “complicit” in the manipulation of intelligence.
“I find it hard to believe that President Biden would do that without you being aware of this,” he said in blasting the secretary of state.
“I don’t want to hear from the secretary,” Mast said towards the end of his time, as “He lies to us when he appears before us. I don’t want to hear the secretary. We don’t need to hear lies.”
Committee chairman Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) tried to gavel Mast down, telling him repeatedly his time expired while the Florida lawmaker continued to accuse Blinken of lying.
Meeks then gave Blinken an opportunity to respond, in which he claimed Mast’s accusations are “simply wrong,” adding that he believes all committee members have had access to “the intelligence assessments” regarding Afghanistan.
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