WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken faced questions from House lawmakers Monday over the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee grilled Blinken, asking why Americans and Afghan allies were left behind.

“This was an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions,” Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said.

They also criticized the secretary for not showing up for the hearing in person.

“I’m right here, Mr. Secretary,” Rep. Scott Perry, R-Penn., said. “We’re here.”

Blinken pushed back against the criticism and defended the Biden administration’s decision to leave Afghanistan.

“There’s no evidence that staying longer would have made the Afghan security forces or the Afghan government any more resilient,” he said.

Monday was the first of back-to-back days of hearings with Secretary Blinken. He said former former President Donald Trump’s agreement with the Taliban to withdraw troops left President Joe Biden with few options.

“President Biden faced the choice of ending the war or escalating it,” he said.

Democrats said Republicans are wrong to ignore the role of the previous administration. Rep. Brad Sherman, a Democrat from California, asked Blinken if the Trump administration left notes on how to carry out the plan.

“We inherited a deadline,” Blinken answered. “We did not inherit a plan.”

Several Republicans and Democrats asked why American citizens, green card holders and Afghan allies were left behind.

“The most important promise in our military is no man left behind, no one left behind,” Rep. McCaul said. “But you broke this promise.”

Blinken said there are about 100 Americans still left and the State Department is in touch with all of them, working to get them home.