Congress’ Afghanistan hearings begin next week as Biden’s foreign-policy credentials stained again


House Democrats will seek answers from top administration officials early next week on the chaotic collapse in Afghanistan, as President Biden’s supposed mastery of foreign policy is exposed yet again, this time over his handling of the troop pullout and evacuations.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hear testimony from “the highest level” administration officials. The panel has asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to testify, in a timetable that reflects the urgency of the unresolved crisis in Kabul.

“That will take place early next week — at least it will begin then,” Mrs. Pelosi told KPIX in San Francisco, even as she praised the president for what she called his “strong and decisive” action in Afghanistan.

Senate Democrats also plan to hold hearings on the fall of Kabul to the Taliban and the hasty evacuation of Americans and allies from the city’s airport. Senate Armed Services Chairman Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat, said his committee will hold hearings on “what went wrong in Afghanistan.”

Mr. Biden’s job-approval rating has taken a big hit as the crisis unfolds. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Tuesday found that Mr. Biden’s approval dropped by 7 percentage points in a week to 46%, his lowest since taking office.

The collapse of the U.S.-backed government and military is the biggest foreign policy crisis in Mr. Biden’s seven-month tenure. And it has punctured once more his claim over the decades of being one of Washington’s most seasoned foreign-policy experts.

Just a month ago, Mr. Biden assured Americans that a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was “highly unlikely.”

“As [former Defense Secretary] Bob Gates said ten years ago, Joe Biden has been wrong about nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue for the last four decades,” Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, tweeted on Wednesday. “Make it five decades now.”

Critics say that Mr. Biden, who served eight years as vice president and earlier as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has amassed an unflattering record on major international flashpoints.

When President Obama authorized the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, Mr. Biden was the voice in the room advising against it. He later said he urged Mr. Obama to wait for conclusive intelligence, not to stop the mission altogether.

Mr. Biden voted in favor of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2002. He said Republican President George W. Bush Bush “was right to be concerned about Saddam Hussein’s relentless pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and the possibility that he may use them or share them with terrorists.”

“These weapons must be dislodged from Saddam Hussein, or Saddam Hussein must be dislodged from power,” Mr. Biden said.

Two years later, Mr. Biden asserted, “I never believed they had weapons of mass destruction.”

In 2007, Mr. Biden opposed the Bush administration’s surge of 20,000 troops to Iraq. He called it “contrary to the overwhelming body of informed opinion, both inside and outside the administration.”

The surge was credited later by officials in both parties for stabilizing the security situation in Iraq.

When he announced in April that the U.S. would pull out all remaining troops from Afghanistan, Mr. Biden overruled his top military commanders, including Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They had recommended keeping 2,500 troops in Afghanistan while trying to negotiate a peace agreement.

Former Vice President Mike Pence said the Biden administration’s “disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan is a foreign-policy humiliation unlike anything our country has endured since the Iran hostage crisis.”

“It has embarrassed America on the world stage, caused allies to doubt our dependability, and emboldened enemies to test our resolve,” Mr. Pence wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “Worst of all, it has dishonored the memory of the heroic Americans who helped bring terrorists to justice after 9/11, and all who served in Afghanistan over the past 20 years.”

The glaring U.S. failure in Afghanistan has shaken allies. Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative chair of the British parliament’s foreign affairs committee, called the collapse of Afghanistan “the biggest foreign policy disaster since Suez” in 1956.

“We need to think again about how we handle friends, who matters and how we defend our interests,” he tweeted.

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, said the president took the right course in pulling all U.S. troops out of the 20-year war in Afghanistan.

“I commend the president for the action that he took — it was strong, it was decisive, and it was the right thing to do,” she said. “We should have been out of Afghanistan a while back. Unfortunately, one of the possibilities was that it would be in disarray, as it is, but that has to be corrected.”

Asked about the treasure trove of U.S. military hardware that has fallen into the hands of the Taliban, Mrs. Pelosi replied, “This is what happens when you withdraw — some stuff, some equipment, is left there.”

“It was hoped that it would be used by the Afghan military to defend its own country,” she said. “The fact that it did not and could not was all the more the reason for us to leave.”

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