The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee gave Secretary of State Antony Blinken an ultimatum: produce documents related to the nation’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in August of 2021 or be subpoenaed.
Congressman Michael McCaul of Texas told Blinken he had until March 27.
“I have the subpoena. It’s right here. And I’m prepared to serve this,” McCaul told Blinken, who appeared before the committee on March 23 to testify about the State Department’s budget requests.
Hundreds of Americans were left behind when American forces rapidly pulled out of the country in the summer of 2021 after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. The takeover came approximately four months after President Joe Biden announced he planned to fully withdraw from the country by Sept. 11 – the 20th anniversary of the attacks on 9/11.
“Republicans — and some Democrats — say there has never been a full accounting of the chaotic operation, in which 13 U.S. service members were killed at Kabul’s airport,” per Reuters.
McCaul sent a letter to Blinken on March 21 underscoring the immediate need for the requested documents prior to his March 23 testimony. McCaul described the military withdrawal as “disastrous.”
The Committee has requested “the Dissent Channel cable reportedly sent on July 13, 2021, by 23 State Department officials and the Department’s response to it,” a “current draft of the After-Action Report prepared under Ambassador Daniel Smith (including any associated documents such as exhibits or appendices),” and “two iterations of U.S. Embassy Kabul’s Emergency Action Plan (EAP): The one in existence on January 1, 2021, and the final iteration of the plan before the Embassy’s closure.”
“These documents should be easy to identify and produce,” wrote McCaul. “It is imperative that the State Department produce them in complete and unredacted form without further delay.”
“I want to make clear that we are working to provide all the information that this committee is looking for and that its oversight responsibilities give it the authority to secure,” Blinken told McCaul on March 23. He added that some information could only be shared with senior officials
Blinken said he had withheld a physical copy of the cable requested by the committee to ensure the integrity of the Dissent Channel. The channel is a protected way for diplomats to express serious concerns to the State Department without fear of reprisal or retribution, per The Hill.
According to the secretary, there are Americans still being held in Afghanistan by the Taliban. Blinken said he would not identify them in compliance with their families’ wishes.
“We are working to secure their freedom,” Blinken told the committee. Blinken testified that the State Department is in contact with 175 Americans and that the department is “working to effectuate” the departure of 44 of those individuals.
Blinken and National Security Council coordinator John Kirby both told the committee on March 22 that an after-action report on the withdrawal from Afghanistan will be sent to Congress by mid-April.
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