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Blinken's House Testimony On Afghanistan Wasn't Persuasive, Rep. Chabot Says

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

We're going to turn now to one of the members of Congress who questioned Secretary Blinken. Joining us now is Ohio Republican Steve Chabot. He sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Good morning, Congressman.

STEVE CHABOT: Good morning.

MARTINEZ: At least one of your Republican colleagues asked the secretary to resign. Was yesterday at all helpful in better understanding the process involved in the Biden administration's withdrawal plan from Afghanistan?

CHABOT: You know, it was just really very disappointing to hear the same tired talking points, the excuses and spin and this administration's continuing refusal to accept any responsibility for arguably the worst foreign affairs debacle in American history. Secretary Blinken was still blaming the previous administration, arguing that they were just following Trump's policy when they ignored virtually every other major Trump policy from our southern border to the Keystone Pipeline to the Iran deal to the Paris Climate Accords, and I could go on from there. So I didn't really find Secretary Blinken's testimony very persuasive.

MARTINEZ: Did it answer any questions you had, though?

CHABOT: It answered a few here and there, but in general, I think he was very evasive, and he stuck to the party line, which is that it wasn't our fault. Trump made us do it, basically. And the other thing that I found particularly...

MARTINEZ: Well, Trump did have a deal with the Taliban, though. That's true, though.

CHABOT: Well, he certainly did have a deal, but it was based upon what was happening on the ground. And one of those things was that al-Qaida - which was being harbored by the Taliban, and that's how we got hit on September 11, why we went into Afghanistan to begin with, so there wouldn't be a safe harbor for terrorists to strike us here - essentially, the deal was that they would break off any relationship, that the Taliban would not continue to harbor al-Qaida. They're clearly there, and so is every other major terrorist group in the area. And it is going to be now a haven for terrorists to plot against us with our own equipment. They've now got the most sophisticated military equipment in the world, about $85 billion worth to use against us, our own equipment.

MARTINEZ: So what's your biggest unanswered question you have left, coming out of this hearing?

CHABOT: Well, where do we go from here, really? When you've had such a chaotic, disorganized, feckless, botched blunder here, you know, what's going to happen? And how are they possibly - now that they've given up a key place where we had intelligence to watch where the bad guys were in the region - they're talking about we can hit them from, you know, across the horizon.

That's just happy talk. You don't have the same kind of assets that we had prior to this. So it puts us here on our own turf in a much more vulnerable and dangerous position than we were. Arguably, we're in a more dangerous position than we were prior to September 11 'cause they didn't have the most sophisticated weaponry in the world. They had box cutters and things. Now they've got the same thing that our forces have.

MARTINEZ: But Congressman, if President Trump had remained in office, that deal that he struck with them back in February of 2020 would be in place right now. He'd have withdrawn as well. Then what would have made - what would have come of the United States' ability to try and keep tabs on what happens in Afghanistan at that point?

CHABOT: Well, we don't know that Trump would have - and I was opposed to that policy as well.

MARTINEZ: We don't know that Trump would have...

CHABOT: We don't know that he would - we don't know that he would have pulled out at this point because it was conditioned on the fact that the Taliban would have been separated from al-Qaida, and al-Qaida is still there in spades. So we don't know that Trump would've. And that was - a number of us disagreed with that policy then. So but at this point, the fact is that Trump's not in office. This administration is, and what they're trying to do is put the blame back on there. It's just as bad as blaming the Afghans. It's kind of victim-shaming, really.

This administration has blamed the Afghans for not fighting when, in fact, they suffered over 3,000 casualties in the last 18 months. During that same time, there wasn't one American casualty, which is a good thing, but the fact is they were fighting. But when you pull out all their intelligence, their air support, the contractors that were able to keep their planes in the air, they essentially at that point collapse. This administration says quicker than they anticipated, but the bottom line is they collapsed because of what this administration did, and now we've got a terrible situation on our hands.

MARTINEZ: One more thing quickly, Congressman. What concerns do you have about any future diplomatic relationships that the U.S. has with the Taliban?

CHABOT: Well, certainly the problem is this administration seems to think that we've got a, you know, Taliban 2.0. They're going to be fine. I don't think so. The 20 million women and girls in that country are now going to be brutalized. It's basically they're dependent upon the good graces of the Taliban. The Taliban doesn't have good graces.

MARTINEZ: That's Republican Representative Steve Chabot of Ohio. Thank you very much.

CHABOT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.