Both Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including chairman Bob Menendez, expressed mounting frustration Tuesday with the Biden administration after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin refused to appear before the Committee to answer questions about the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, according to Breitbart News.
“I’m very disappointed that Secretary Austin declined our request to testify today. A full accounting of the U.S. response to this crisis is not complete without the Pentagon, especially when it comes to the complete collapse of the U.S.-trained and funded Afghan military,” said Menendez.
The Pentagon issued a statement Tuesday claiming that Austin wanted to attend the hearings but was busy with other “commitments.”
“I expect the secretary will avail himself to the committee in the near future, and if he does not I may consider use of committee subpoena power to compel him and others over the course of these last 20 years to testify,” Menendez warned.
“There’s questions that we really need to have answered, and it’s disheartening that they declined to testify,” added Sen. James Risch (R-ID), ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee.
It’s more than disheartening; it’s suspicious. Considering the magnitude of the Biden administration’s foreign policy debacle in Afghanistan, Austin’s evasion speaks volumes.
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Addressing the Matter of “Racists and Extremists” in the Military
During that same confirmation hearing, Austin vowed to rid the U.S. military of the many “racists and extremists” that allegedly had infiltrated its ranks. “The job of the Department of Defense is to keep America safe from our enemies,” he said. “But we can’t do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks.” Austin made those remarks with reference to the infamous January 6, 2021 incident where hundreds of unarmed people, claiming to be supporters of President Trump, had temporarily occupied the U.S. Capitol building in Washington to protest what they viewed as a stolen presidential election. Austin and his allies in the Biden Administration voiced concern regarding the fact that about 50 of those individuals were, as CBS News reported, “current or former military members.” But that seemingly ominous statistic was not nearly as significant as it may first have appeared, because only one of the 50 was an active-duty service member at the time, and just four were current part-time troops in the Army Reserve or National Guard.
On February 3, 2021, Austin began to make good on his promise to crack down on “racists and extremists” in the military when he announced a 60-day staggered pause and review – known in the military as a “stand down” – during which commanders and leaders across every branch of the Armed Services could search for evidence of domestic “extremism” among uniformed personnel. This process would include interviews with every service member vis-à-vis their experience with, and their observations of, extremist ideology and behavior among their peers.
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