Durbin Questions Secretary Of State Blinken On Afghanisatn

Durbin also urges for safe return of Illinois-native Mark Frerichs

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today, at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing about the State Department’s Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) Budget Request, questioned Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the United States’ policy towards Afghanistan in the future.

“It appears the Taliban is going to be a political force there. There is also a government in place. I’m not quite sure if there is any accommodation between them going on or expected,” Durbin said. “I think we’ve spent a vast amount of our fortune and many American lives trying to build an indigenous Afghan security force so they can stabilize the situation and stop the outgrowth of terrorism when it occurs…so whose side are we on in the future of Afghanistan?”

Blinken responded by saying the United States is on the side of the Afghan people to ensure they can move forward with peace, security, and freedom. Blinken noted that there are ongoing discussions between the government and the Taliban to see if they can come to a peaceful accommodation that ends the conflict. Blinken also assured Durbin that even though the United States is withdrawing its military forces from Afghanistan, that the United States will remain engaged in diplomatic and development efforts to assist the Afghan government and its people. 

Durbin also urged Blinken to do everything in his power to bring home Mark Frerichs, originally from Illinois and a veteran of the U.S. Navy, who was abducted in Afghanistan last year. Frerichs has spent nearly ten years living and working as an independent contractor in Afghanistan.

“Mark is an American who is being held captive in Afghanistan. I hope that you will give me an update in the next 24 to 48 hours on what we are doing to bring him home,” Durbin asked.

Durbin concluded his questioning by asking Blinken to ensure Afghans who helped the American war effort are kept safe after our military leaves the country. Durbin mentioned a recent Chicago Sun-Times article that described the efforts of an Afghan interpreter who saved the lives of troops during the war effort, and the danger the interpreter could face as America ends its military operations in the country. Durbin has been a strong supporter of the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program and recently joined colleagues in a bipartisan letter to President Biden in support of improving, extending, and expanding the program, as well as options for keeping safe those applicants who may face immediate danger in Afghanistan.    

Video of Durbin’s remarks from the hearing is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks from the hearing is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks from the hearing is available here for TV Stations.