Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that “several Americans” remain detained by the Taliban in Afghanistan after the Biden administration’s withdrawal from the country in the summer of 2021.
Blinken’s comments came during an exchange with Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Thursday to examine the “State of American Diplomacy in 2023: Growing Conflicts, Budget Challenges, and Great Power Competition.”
“There are several Americans who are being detained by the Taliban. We are working to secure their freedom. The families have asked that we protect their identities and don’t speak publicly to their cases,” Blinken responded when asked by Wilson how many Americans remain in the war-torn country.
“Those are being detained. How many other Americans are there?” Wilson asked.
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“As we speak, American citizens who identified themselves to us who are in Afghanistan — some of whom have been there since the withdrawal, some of whom went back to Afghanistan — there are about, that we’re in contact with, about 175. Forty-four of them are ready to leave, and we are working to effectuate their departure,” Blinken said.
Blinken’s comments come as Republicans continue to push for accountability from the Biden administration over its rocky withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, which resulted in the deaths of 13 U.S. service members who were killed in a suicide bombing while protecting the evacuation at the Kabul airport.
Republicans in the House of Representatives have begun an investigation into Biden’s handling of the withdrawal. Lawmakers seek to examine what they called a “stunning failure” of leadership in their first hearing on the topic earlier this month.
The Taliban quickly took over Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul in August 2021 as U.S. troops prepared to withdraw on Biden’s orders, timed for the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. In addition to the thirteen U.S. service members who were killed, 170 others also lost their lives during the withdrawal and thousands of U.S. citizens and allies were left behind in the country overrun by the terrorist group.
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Earlier this week, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, sent a letter — one of many in recent months — to Blinken demanding that he provide the committee with “documents and information concerning the Biden Administration’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.”
Specifically, McCaul is demanding information from Blinken regarding a “Dissent Channel cable reportedly sent on July 13, 2021, by 23 State Department officials and the Department’s response to it,” as well as an after-action report and two versions of U.S. Embassy Kabul’s Emergency Action Plan (EAP) prior to the embassy’s closure.
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In the letter, McCaul warned Blinken that his “failure to produce” those documents would “result in the Committee issuing a subpoena to compel their production.”
McCaul reminded Blinken of that letter during his testimony to the committee on Thursday, reiterating that he will issue a subpoena if the documents are not delivered to the committee in a timely manner.
“I believe this committee and the American people — after what happened, for God’s sake what happened in that dreadful August — need to see this cable and sir, we need you to respond. If you fail, I am prepared to serve you with a subpoena,” McCaul told Blinken.
Kelly Laco contributed to this article.
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