- Sen. Robert Menendez, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, vowed to hold hearings on the Biden administration's execution of the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
- In a lengthy statement, the New Jersey Democrat offered one of the most pointed criticisms of President Joe Biden from within the party to date.
- Menendez's rebuke comes just days after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan as political leaders and government security forces fled the capital Kabul.
U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) questions Zalmay Khalilzad, special envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation, during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 27, 2021.Susan Walsh | Pool | Reuters
Sen. Robert Menendez, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, vowed to hold the Biden administration accountable for what he characterized as its botched execution of the U.S. troop departure from Afghanistan.
In a lengthy statement Tuesday, the New Jersey Democrat offered one of the most pointed criticisms of President Joe Biden from within the party to date.
"In implementing this flawed plan, I am disappointed that the Biden administration clearly did not accurately assess the implications of a rapid U.S. withdrawal. We are now witnessing the horrifying results of many years of policy and intelligence failures," Menendez said in a release.
"The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will continue fulfilling its oversight role with a hearing on U.S. policy towards Afghanistan, including the Trump administration's flawed negotiations with Taliban, and the Biden administration's flawed execution of the U.S. withdrawal," he added.
The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment about Menendez's statement.
Menendez's rebuke comes just days after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan as political leaders and government security forces fled Kabul. Analysts say the well-telegraphed withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country, a plan devised by the Trump administration and carried out by Biden, is to blame for the Taliban's rapid advance over the past week.
The Taliban has thus far promised amnesty for former government officials and are for the moment working with U.S. forces to keep Kabul's airport open for military and civilian flights.
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But Menendez, who in May urged the Biden administration to reconsider his planned troop withdrawal, said Tuesday that he intends to leverage his leadership on the Foreign Relations Committee to address, "the looming humanitarian and human rights catastrophe under a Taliban-led regime."
"Our nation's reputation is on the line and our whole government must be making every effort to achieve this objective," he added. "There were clear policy execution and intelligence failures associated with our withdrawal and its aftermath."
Sen. Jim Risch, the ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, vented similar frustrations on Monday, saying in a press release that the Biden administration's exit leaves the U.S. vulnerable to future harm.
"This rushed and political decision to withdraw without consideration of our counterterrorism priorities will allow Afghanistan to serve as a future platform for terrorist attacks against the United States and our partners," the Idaho Republican said.
Biden defended the withdrawal in a blunt speech Monday. He described the war in Afghanistan as a lost cause for the United States, citing how rapidly Afghan forces fell to the Taliban. He also said, "The buck stops with me."