House GOP subpoenas Biden secretary of State for Afghanistan cable

Secretary of State Antony Blinken
Greg Nash
Secretary of State Antony Blinken answers a question during a Senate Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs to discuss the President’s the FY 2024 budget for the Department on Wednesday, March 22, 2023.

House Republicans subpoenaed Secretary of State Antony Blinken late Monday, compelling him to turn over a July 2021 dissent cable from U.S. officials in Afghanistan reportedly warning of the grave risk that the government there would collapse.

The subpoena, signed by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-Texas), comes after a tense exchange between the two men last week, when McCaul described the State Department’s reasoning for withholding a document as “bullshit” and gave Blinken until Monday to turn over the document as well as his reply.

“This committee is empowered by the U.S. Constitution to conduct oversight of the State Department,” McCaul said in a statement. 

“We have made multiple good faith attempts to find common ground so we could see this critical piece of information. Unfortunately, Secretary Blinken has refused to provide the Dissent Cable and his response to the cable, forcing me to issue my first subpoena as chairman of this committee. The American people deserve answers as to how this tragedy unfolded, and why 13 U.S. servicemembers lost their lives. We expect the State Department to follow the law and comply with this subpoena in good faith.”

McCaul views a dissent cable authored by at least 23 diplomats serving at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul as critically important to understanding why the Biden administration failed to anticipate the rapid fall of the American-backed government and takeover by the Taliban.

Taliban forces took Kabul on August 15, complicating an already difficult exit process for the U.S. The fall of the city required the return of some military forces to help secure Hamid Karzai International Airport and aid with a rushed evacuation of citizens and allies just two weeks ahead of a total drawdown of forces.

The cable has been sought by leaders on both sides of the committee since before the completion of the withdrawal at the end of August 2021. However, the subpoena is the first from McCaul, who has pledged to conduct a thorough review of the U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan.

While more than 100,000 U.S. citizens, residents, and Afghan allies were airlifted from the country many who assisted the U.S. in its 20-year effort were left behind.

Last week the State Department told the committee in a letter obtained by The Associated Press that they would be willing to sit for a briefing to describe the contents of the cable.

“The Department is prepared to discuss a path that would communicate to you the circumstances and substance of the requested cable exchange, as an extraordinary accommodation,” the letter said.

“The Department trusts that this accommodation will address the Committee’s request for information while preserving the confidential nature of the Dissent Channel.”

State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said Monday that the department should not undermine what is designed to be a confidential way for diplomats to speak to leaders.

“It is a unique way for anyone in the department to speak truth to power as they see it without fear or favor. And they do it by the regulations we have established for these cables in a privileged and confidential way,” Patel said. “It’s vital to us that we preserve the integrity of that process and of that channel.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tags Afghanistan Antony Blinken Antony Blinken Joe Biden Michael McCaul Michael McCaul

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