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Blinken defends Biden's refugee cap, Afghanistan withdrawal in exclusive interview

The secretary advised ABC News Biden will"revisit" his present cap on refugees.

While President Joe Biden pledged to acknowledge 125,000 refugees in the new financial year following fall, Blinken wouldn't commit to some, telling ABC's"This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz,"Look, the president has been clear about where he would like to proceed, but we have to be, you know, focused on what we're in a position to do if we're able to do it"

That wait-and-see speech from Blinken and the White House, citing the"decimated" state of the refugee resettlement program, enraged several prominent Democrats, as well as refugee resettlement agencies who said that they are prepared to take Biden's assurance of 62,500 for the rest of this financial year.

"President Biden has broken his promise to restore our humanity. We cannot turn our back on refugees around the world, such as hundreds of refugees who've been cleared for resettlement, have sold their possessions, and are all set to board flights," Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the House Progressive Caucus, said in a statement.

As a result, after the White House had announced Friday that Biden would maintain former President Donald Trump's historical low cap of 15,000 refugees, the government backtracked and stated it would increase the cap following month.

"We are in a position to begin to bring people in who have been in the pipeline and who weren't able to come in. That is starting now, and we are going to reevaluate it at the middle of May," Blinken said.

Some 35,000 refugees are vetted and approved for resettlement in the U.S., according to the global Rescue Committee, a resettlement agency.

With Biden's order, these resettlements can start again, but they will be limited, with the government saying Friday it would place a"closing, greater refugee cap" following month following a couple of weeks of both arrivals and blamed the Trump administration for leaving the program"broken," in Blinken's words.

"Based on what we've seen from in terms of the inheritance and being able to check at what was in place, what we can put in place, how fast we could place it in position, it is going to be very difficult to meet the 62,000 amount this year," he said -- the amount he informed Congress the administration would accept in a February notice.

"We are going to be revisiting that within the coming weeks," he added.

Refugee resettlement agencies agreed that Trump left the country's program in tatters through funding cuts and onerous vetting measures, but they have said they might scale up quickly to fulfill Biden's original goal of 62,500, if the government helped provide resources.

Rather, Biden on Saturday blamed the historical number of migrants coming at the southern U.S. boundary for maintaining the refugee cap non for now -- a motive Blinken did not mention. While a number of the exact same government agencies cope with the two, refugees are valued overseas and granted consent to go to the U.S. compared to asylum seekers who make their own requests upon entering U.S. territory.

The government is also facing criticism from some Democrats and many Republicans over Biden's decision this week to draw all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan from Sept. 11 -- almost 20 years after the U.S. first invaded to topple the Taliban government that provided safe haven to the al-Qaida operatives who planned the terrorist attacks.

Despite intelligence chiefs warning this week of a reduction in U.S. prominence in the nation, Blinken said the government will keep"the means to find out if there's a resurgence, a reemergence of a terrorist threat from Afghanistan... in real time, with the time to do it."

The U.S. intelligence community's yearly assessment, published Wednesday, said withdrawal risks a resurgence of the terrorism threat -- and it could go unnoticed by U.S. forces.

"When the time comes for the U.S. military to draw, the U.S. government's ability to collect and act on threats will diminish. That's only a reality," said CIA Director Bill Burns.
Blinken didn't dismiss those issues but said the administration is"going to be sure we have resources appropriately set up to see this coming, if it comes again, to see it and in order to to deal with it."

Past the terrorism threat to the U.S. or some other, there are strong concerns the Taliban is awaiting an American exit to topple the Afghan authorities. Blinken seemed to disagree, telling Raddatz,"What everybody recognizes is there's no military settlement to the battle. If they start something up again, they are likely to be in a very long war that is not in their interest."

It is uncertain if the Taliban perspectives the situation like that. Its leadership said this week that the Taliban will not take part in peace negotiations with the Afghan government until U.S. and NATO forces exit but also said that the Taliban remains"committed to finding a peaceful solution to the Afghan issue"

Blinken said the U.S. will throw its entire weight behind encouraging those peace negotiations, which might be supposed to restart in the coming weeks using a summit hosted by Turkey.

"When the Taliban is going to take part in some style in governance, if it wants to be internationally recognized, if it does not want to become a pariah, it's going to need to engage in a political process," he explained.

Even if this political process succeeds, there are deep concerns that together with the Taliban in power in some form, the rights of women and women and minorities will be curbed at best. However, Blinken committed that U.S. diplomatic, economic and development support could be conditioned on these rights respected.

"Any country that moves backwards on this, that tries to repress them, will not have that global recognition, won't have that global standing, and indeed, we will take actions to make sure to the best of our skill that they can not accomplish that," he explained.

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