Senate Intel chair vows ‘tough but necessary questions’ on Afghanistan collapse
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) said Monday that he will work with other congressional committees to probe the rapid unraveling of Afghanistan, including why the United States was caught off guard by the Taliban’s quick advances.
The statement comes as President Biden addressed the country on Monday and stood by his decision to withdraw U.S. troops while acknowledging that the situation on the ground deteriorated more quickly than he expected.
But Warner’s statement, and broader bipartisan concern about the execution of the exit strategy, underscores that the administration is likely to face lingering questions about how it overestimated Afghan officials and underestimated the Taliban.
“As the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I hope to work with the other committees of jurisdiction to ask tough but necessary questions about why we weren’t better prepared for a worst-case scenario involving such a swift and total collapse of the Afghan government and security forces,” Warner said in a statement.
“We owe those answers to the American people and to all those who served and sacrificed so much,” he added.
No congressional committees have announced formal investigations or hearings into the rapid collapse in Afghanistan, where chaotic scenes have spilled out of the Kabul airport as Afghans and U.S. personnel wait to be evacuated.
But several committees in both the House and Senate, including Intelligence, Armed Services and Foreign Relations and Foreign Affairs, have oversight of a piece of the administration’s Afghanistan policy.
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, “There is much for Congress to review, consider, and question, and as a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee I intend to exercise this serious responsibility.”
Republicans have offered blistering criticism of Biden’s decision to stick with former President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S troops and the exit strategy, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who called it an “unmitigated disaster.”
Democrats have focused more on the need for Biden to ramp up the evacuation of tens of thousands of Afghans who aided the U.S. military and their family members, most of whom are still stuck in Afghanistan and somewhere in the pipeline for eventually being moved to another country.
Warner, in his statement on Monday, called the images coming out of Afghanistan “devastating” and that the “top priority” should be removing Americans and Afghan allies.
“The world must know that the United States stands by her friends in times of need, and this is one of those times. We must do everything we can to secure the airport in Kabul, restore evacuation flights, and allow our trusted Afghan partners to find safe haven in the United States or elsewhere before it is too late,” he said.