First on CNN: Afghanistan withdrawal investigation launched by top Republican on House
The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday requested from the State Department a vast number of documents related to the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, marking the official launch of the newly Republican-led panel’s investigation into the chaotic exit.
Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, gave the department a deadline of January 26 to respond. He threatened the power of subpoena if the department does not comply.
“It is imperative that the State Department provide complete responses to these longstanding requests, and the Committee will not tolerate continued delay,” McCaul wrote to Secretary of State Tony Blinken in a letter reviewed by CNN. “In the event of noncompliance, the Committee will use the authorities available to it to enforce these requests as necessary, including through compulsory process.”
The Afghanistan probe into the 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan is just one of many investigations into the Biden administration that House Republicans are beginning to push ahead.
McCaul, in the 10-page letter, requested a list of all interagency meetings related to the withdrawal that occurred during the Biden administration. He also requested information about all meetings with the Taliban since January 2021.
In addition to digging into the planning that went into the withdrawal, and the withdrawal process, the letter makes it clear that the committee is interested in probing the after-effects of the withdrawal.
Questions include: “What are the Administration’s intentions for rescinding and/or reprogramming foreign assistance in Afghanistan?” and “What is the U.S. Government’s current relationship with the Taliban?” and “What is the status of SIV, P1, and P2 visa application processing?”
McCaul and Republican colleagues on the committee sent the department at least three requests for similar information last year. But during that time McCaul was in the minority and the department did not provide the information requested.
The Republicans on the committee went ahead with a report into the withdrawal last year, despite not having access to documents or interviews with State Department officials. But now that Republicans are in the majority in the House, they have more power to wield and can legally require the administration to give them information.
At the State Department, a small group of officials had begun planning for the coming investigation into Afghanistan last year, officials said.
McCaul and Blinken had started off on friendly footing with both sides casting their meeting at the State Department earlier in the week as productive.
“It was a truly constructive – at least from our vantage point – successful engagement with the chairman,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Thursday. “Yesterday’s engagement with Chairman McCaul was the start of that engagement with the 118th Congress, but we expect a lot more to come.”
When asked if the department would comply with document requests related to the Afghanistan withdrawal Price avoided a firm commitment. Price said, generally, that the Biden administration believes in the utility and necessity of the functions of Congress.
“We look forward to continuing our engagement with this Congress on those areas that are of interest to them and that most importantly are of priority to the American people,” Price said.
The State Department did its own review of the Afghanistan withdrawal last year, but the department has yet to widely release its findings. The report was concluded more than 10 months ago, sources told CNN.