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Rounds presses Blinken on Afghanistan exit aftermath

Rounds for Senate
Courtesy Photo

Republican US Senator Mike Rounds is pressing the Secretary of State about the Biden administration's withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Rounds says there's a void in Afghanistan now that the Afghan National Government is gone and that the U.S. has left the country.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was on Capitol Hill before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. That's a committee Rounds is on.

Rounds has been critical of President Joe Biden's departure from Afghanistan.

Rounds says he wanted to know if the administration had enough time to formulate a plan to address the power vacuum in the country.

"What I want is to press them on the path moving forward regarding the plan to address this void in Afghanistan," Rounds said. "That's where the attack on 9/11 originated. For 20 years, because of our presence there, because of young men and women who have served over there, we have been safe."

Rounds says the void in Afghanistan will get filled by groups like Al Qaeda and the Taliban, as well as other countries like China, Russia, Iran, and Pakistan.

In response, Blinken said the United States has communication with nearby countries with various interests in Afghanistan.

"At the same time we've established across more than 100 countries—and in the [United Nations] through a security council resolution—basic expectations of the Taliban led government. If those expectations are not met, and other countries are aiding and abetting so that the Taliban is able to not fulfill those expectations, there will be consequences for that too."

Rounds was also looking for updates on three of five Special Immigrant Visas his staff has worked on.

Rounds says some of those visas have been initiated for over three years.

Rounds says South Dakota National Guard veterans to help specific individuals out of Afghanistan.

"So, I wanted to follow up with him on that process," Rounds said. "Their attempts to, basically, stop us from getting information on these individuals and their lack of ability to share information with us even though it's required by law."

Rounds says the state department's position has been that it is precluded by law from providing updates or noting any potential defects in applications.

Rounds says that prevents members of congress from executing over-site in constituent service responsibilities, specifically when advocating in support of an applicant.

Secretary Blinken says he's happy to review the department's procedures. Blinken says he's grateful for what Rounds and his staff have done to help get people out of Afghanistan.

"We'll certainly review all of these procedures. There are requirements either built into the law, privacy concerns that need addressed, but we should look at everything."