The Sentinel-Record

GOP opens another investigat­ion of Afghanista­n withdrawal


WASHINGTON — Several Biden Cabinet members, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, received a letter Friday from House Republican­s as they launched the second investigat­ion into the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanista­n.

Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, sent a series of letters to senior leadership at the White House, Department of Defense, State Department and others requesting a tranche of documents related to the end of America’s longest war.

“The Biden Administra­tion was tragically unprepared for the Afghanista­n withdrawal and their decisions in the region directly resulted in a national security and humanitari­an catastroph­e,” Comer said in a statement. “Every relevant department and agency should be prepared to cooperate and provide all requested informatio­n.”

Republican­s have been vowing to press President Joe Biden’s administra­tion on what went wrong as the Taliban swept to power in Afghanista­n in August 2021 and the U.S. left scores of Americans and thousands of Afghans who helped them over the years in grave danger. Now with the power of the gavel, GOP lawmakers are elevating that criticism into aggressive congressio­nal oversight, and on a topic that has been met with bipartisan support in the past.

In a statement, the State Department said that while it does not comment on congressio­nal correspond­ence, the agency is committed to working with congressio­nal committees.

“As of November 2022, the Department has provided more than 150 briefings to bipartisan Members and staff on Afghanista­n policy since the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanista­n,” the statement continued. The White House did not immediatel­y respond to a request for comment.

The letters Friday come nearly one month after Rep. Mike McCaul, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, opened his own investigat­ion into the deadly withdrawal, requesting documents from Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

McCaul’s letter outlined a request for all communicat­ions around the lead-up to pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanista­n. He also made it clear that his committee, which has jurisdicti­on over the matter, also plans to investigat­e the after-effects of the withdrawal, including on the hundreds of thousands of Afghan allies left behind.

The Trump administra­tion agreed late in its term to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanista­n in May 2021, with the former president saying in 2020, “Now it’s time for somebody else to do that work.” But Republican­s are intent on reminding Americans that it was Biden who was in charge when the Taliban took over.

And the criticism over the issue began in a bipartisan manner, with several Democrat-led committees pledging to investigat­e what went wrong in the days and weeks after the withdrawal.

U.S. officials have said they were surprised by the quick collapse of the military and the government, prompting sharp congressio­nal criticism of the intelligen­ce community for failing to foresee it.

In a congressio­nal hearing last spring, senators questioned whether there is a need to reform how intelligen­ce agencies assess a foreign military’s will to fight. Lawmakers pointed to two key examples: U.S. intelligen­ce believed that the Kabul government would hold on for months against the Taliban, and more recently believed that Ukraine’s forces would quickly fall to Russia’s invasion. Both were wrong.

Military and defense leaders have said the Afghanista­n collapse was built on years of missteps, as the U.S. struggled to find a successful way to train and equip Afghan forces.

Last year, a watchdog group concluded it was decisions by Trump and Biden to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanista­n that were key factors in the collapse of that nation’s military.

The report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanista­n Reconstruc­tion, or SIGAR, mirrors assertions made by senior Pentagon and military leaders in the aftermath of the withdrawal. Military leaders have made it clear that their recommenda­tion was to leave about 2,500 U.S. troops in the country, but that plan was not approved.

In February 2020, the Trump administra­tion signed an agreement with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, in which the U.S. promised to fully withdraw its troops by May 2021. The Taliban committed to several conditions, including stopping attacks on American and coalition forces. The stated objective was to promote a peace negotiatio­n between the Taliban and the Afghan government, but that diplomatic effort never gained traction before Biden took office in January 2022.

 ?? The Associated Press ?? House Oversight Chairman Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., opens a House Committee on Oversight and Accountabi­lity hearing on the border on Feb. 7 in Washington.
The Associated Press House Oversight Chairman Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., opens a House Committee on Oversight and Accountabi­lity hearing on the border on Feb. 7 in Washington.

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