Defense

Oversight Republicans demand documents on Afghanistan withdrawal

Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) gives an opening statement during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Tuesday, November 16, 2021 to discuss combating ransomware attacks.
Greg Nash

Top Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee are demanding the Biden administration release all documents on the country’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In a letter to several administration officials, committee ranking member James Comer (R-Ky.) and Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.), ranking member of the Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security, asking for “documents, communications, and information” about the planning and execution of the withdrawal from January 2021 to the present.

The letter comes after Axios earlier this month obtained notes from a National Security Council meeting held on Aug. 14 that showed the administration still scrambling to plan for the withdrawal just before Kabul fell to the Taliban.

The notes from the Aug. 14 meeting, titled “Summary of Conclusions for Meeting of the Deputies Small Group,” showed among other things that administration officials had just began planning the transit process for evacuees after leaving Kabul.

“The Biden Administration had the warning signs that the Taliban were planning on seizing Kabul. Nevertheless, it appears the Biden Administration waited until August 14 — one day before Kabul fell — to begin contingency planning,” Comer and Grothman wrote. “What ensued was a U.S. military withdrawal that has drawn apt comparison to the fall of Saigon.”

The letter was sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as well as national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, and acting Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young.

The withdrawal was officially completed on Aug. 31, and the U.S. managed to evacuate 124,000 people. But the process has come under intense scrutiny due to the chaos surrounding it.

Republicans have previously signaled interest in records that would shed light on the Afghanistan withdrawal.

In December, Comer wrote a letter to President Biden, Blinken and Lloyd Austin demanding they preserve records about the withdrawal.  

Comer and Grothman said the ongoing consequences of the withdrawal, especially after the release of the meeting notes, “necessitate Congressional oversight.” 

“The longer-term consequences continue to unravel. Americans are still stranded in Afghanistan and our allies’ lives remain in danger,” they wrote. “The country is facing widespread starvation as it slides into economic collapse. As Afghanistan fails, it risks further destabilizing the region.”

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Antony Blinken Avril Haines Glenn Grothman Jake Sullivan James Comer Joe Biden Lloyd Austin Mark Milley Shalanda Young

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