Blinken, Austin Head to Middle East for Victory Lap or Damage Control
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin headed east on Sunday for separate but parallel missions to meet with allies, express gratitude to those who assisted, and explain the chaotic end to America’s 20-year presence in Afghanistan. The administration is trying to put down the concern of allies that the United States is not a reliable partner following its hurried exit. A major part of the visits will be to reinforce the administration’s focus on the airlift carried out in the final days as a major success in order to blunt critics’ assertion that amid the chaos many individuals who would not pass vetting procedures are being allowed to enter the US. Along this line, both men are believed to be trying to round up support for Washington’s efforts to rescue Americans and Afghan allies who fought side by side with US forces amid reports from the region that the Taliban are holding them hostage.