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Antony Blinken: ‘I Don’t Know’ If Afghan Killed In U.S. Drone Strike Was Aid Worker Or Terrorist
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 14: Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing titled “Examining the U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan,” in Dirksen Building on Tuesday, September 14, 2021. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken admitted Tuesday that he does not know whether a man targeted by a U.S. drone strike in the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan was an aid worker or a terrorist.

Blinken sat in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday to testify over the Biden administration’s handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) pressed Blinken on the identity of the man killed in a retaliatory U.S. strike meant for a purported member of ISIS-K. Blinken said that the investigation into the drone strike was still ongoing and that he did not know the identity of the man killed.

“The guy the Biden administration droned, was he an aid worker or an ISIS-K operative?” Paul asked.

Blinken responded, “the administration is of course reviewing that strike and I’m sure a full assessment will be forthcoming.”

“So you don’t know if it was an aid worker or an ISIS-K operative?” Paul pressed.

Blinken said, “I can’t speak to that and I can’t speak to that in this setting in any event.”

Paul added, “so you don’t know or won’t tell us.”

“I don’t know because we’re reviewing it,” Blinken answered.

Paul, who had previously pressed Blinken over the Biden administration’s conditional offer to send aid money to Afghanistan, ripped into Blinken over the Biden administration’s series of failures amid the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. Paul said:

Well, you see, you’d think you’d kind of know before you off somebody with a predator drone whether he’s an aid worker or he’s an ISIS-K [operative]. See, the thing is, this isn’t just you. It’s been going on for administration after administration. The Obama administration droned hundreds and hundreds of people, and, the thing is, there is blowback to that. I mean, I don’t know if it’s true, but I see these pictures of these beautiful children that were killed in the attack. If that’s true and not propaganda; if that’s true, well then, guess what? Maybe you’ve created hundreds or thousands of new potential terrorists from bombing the wrong people.

So you’ve got to know who you’re, we can’t just sort of have an investigation after we kill people. We have an investigation before we kill people. We’ve got plenty of bombs. We can bomb almost anything we want from anywhere in the world. Maybe we should’ve bombed the helicopters and the planes that we left behind. I mean, even though you said you didn’t know any of this and was all surprised, once they took all of our stuff, we should’ve said ‘You’ve got 20 minutes to get out of it because we’re going to blow it all up.’ Then you would’ve sent a message of strength. Instead, we bombed somebody who we’re not sure whether they’re an aid worker or an ISIS-K operative. See, that’s not sending a signal of strength, and in the end, there will be more blowback from it. If you killed an aid worker on accident, I mean, do you think we’re better off because of that?

You really could have acted from a position of strength. … The basic, fundamental decision that really ruined the whole thing for you was really a military decision to abandon Bagram Air Force Base before you left, before the Americans were out. Anybody can argue and you may have a point that it happened more quickly than we thought it was going to happen. Okay, that’s an honest mistake – still a huge mistake and when people make judgement mistakes in the military they ought to be relieved of their post, but leaving Bagram Air Force Base, I think, is an unforgivable sort of mistake. It’s going to be remembered in history. But if you do nothing about it, you leave all these people in place and say, ‘oh well we all agreed.’ It’s like, then maybe everybody needs to go. I mean, it was a terrible mistake, but releasing money to the Taliban will add insult to injury. It will be terrible to the memory of the 13 soldiers who died in the end, who were the final soldiers to die in this war, if you end up giving money to the people who have been ruining the Middle East and Afghanistan for decades. I hope you won’t release the money and I think it will be a big mistake.

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