Senate Republicans slammed State Department official Derek Chollet, President Joe Biden’s nominee for undersecretary of defense for policy, for the Afghanistan withdrawal.
During his hearing Thursday, Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee called out Chollet for being in the administration during the withdrawal and subsequently appearing to defend it.
Sen. Markwayne Mullin, who repeatedly asked a United States embassy to approve a rescue trip led by private citizens during the height of the Kabul evacuation, tore into the State Department for shooting down his idea.
“The State Department was stopping us every step of the way,” the Oklahoma Republican said, accusing Biden administration officials of undermining his plan to rent a helicopter and fly a number of U.S. citizens out of the country.
“For you to sit there and say that every American who wanted to get out got out, you’re absolutely lying. And you know that to be factual, and you say it with a straight face,” he added.
Meanwhile, Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the panel’s top-ranked Republican, said that Chollet’s comments that the decision to leave Afghanistan was “strategically sound” caused him concern.
Chollet acknowledged his role in the withdrawal in response, noting that the administration had evacuated 120,000 people in August 2021 and 15,000 since then.
But the nominee was not only hit for his role in the Afghanistan withdrawal. Republican Sens. Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Tom Cotton of Arkansas questioned his judgment on military preparedness.
Chollet was also asked about U.S. aid to Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion. Cotton asked Chollet if he believed the administration was quickly answering Kyiv’s necessary weapons and equipment demands.
“I don’t think anyone presumes there’s been a perfect game pitch, for sure,” Chollet responded.
The committee hearing comes amid Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., holding up the Department of Defense nominees on the floor – a protest of perceived woke policies in the military.
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