Secretary of State Antony Ben returns to Capitol Hill on Tuesday for a second day of questions on the US withdrawal from Afghanistan facing Senate Foreign Affairs Committee one day after appearing before the members of the House.
Ben is expected to face more grilling from Republicans on issues such as the decision-making behind the US military withdrawal and what remains in Afghanistan. a request to be evacuated when he sits for the hearing, which is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. The secretary gave a rough estimate of the number of U.S. citizens still stranded in Afghanistan when he confronted the Foreign Affairs Committee ofthe House Monday.
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" So at the end of the week last we had about 100 US citizens in Afghanistan who told us they wanted to leave the country, "Ben said. "And I want to point out that this is a snapshot in time. It is more precisely a moving image, as you know, stepping back for a minute to know precisely at a At this point in time how many US citizens are in any country. "
The secretary of state also admitted that the Taliban is preventing charter flights to Afghanistan from leaving. "There are charter flights that have been there for a while that have not been cleared to go," Ben said.
Monday featured a number of tense momentss while three Republicans - Reps Lee Zeldin, RN.Y., Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., and Joe Wilson, RS.C. - called on Ben to resign.
Ben was pressed on a Reuters report that The president Biden had asked then Afghan President Ashraf Ghani during a phone call "to project a different picture " of the battle against the Taliban - which was seen as a wasted effort - "is true or not.
The secretary declined to intervene, stating that he "did not comment on the allegedly p tranions >
At another point on Monday, Rep Michael McCaul, R-Texas, asked Ben if Russian President Vladimir Putin " threatened "Biden against the development of intelligence capabilities near Afghanistan.
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Ben admitted that this was "an important question ", but said it needed to be dealt with "in another setting.
A number of Democrats have defended the Biden administration against claims that the problems with the withdrawal were the fault of the current White House.
"Unraveling the war in Afghanistan was never going to be easy "said House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks, DN.Y .. " And for my friends aroundAs a clean solution for withdrawal existed, I would love to hear exactly what a smooth withdrawal from a messy and chaotic 20 year war looks like. Actually, I haven't heard of the own removal option yet, because I don't believe there is any. "
Representative Brad Sherman, D-Calif., also defended the administration, arguing that there was a "stampede " last month at the airport from Kabul where the United States evacuated and that "there is simply no way for the administration to have an orderly or successful rout.
Ben himself blamed the old one President Trump , who negotiated a deal with the Taliban that paved the way forr withdrawal from the United States.
"We inherited a deadline, we did not inherit a plan," Ben said.
Jessica Chasmar of Fox News, Peter Hasson and Houston Keene contributed to this report.