- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 19, 2021

House Oversight Republicans are calling for the State Department and Pentagon to testify before their committee on the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, adding to Congress’s growing calls for answers.

The demand for a full account of key decisions leading up to the U.S. troop withdrawal was made by top Republicans on the Oversight Committee in a letter sent Thursday to the Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

“The execution of the withdrawal of U.S. and U.S.-allied troops from Afghanistan has been reckless and haphazard, leading to deadly consequences,” the lawmakers wrote. “In a matter of days, the Taliban went on an offensive and took over Kabul for the first time in nearly two decades. This is unacceptable.”

The letter was signed by Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, the ranking Republicans on the Oversight Committee, and Rep. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin, the ranking member on the committee’s national security panel.

The Washington Times obtained a copy of the letter.

The letters come amid growing calls by Congress for the Biden administration to answer for what many believe to be a failure that could have widespread implications.

On Wednesday, 18 Republicans joined Messrs. Comer and Grothman in calling for House Oversight Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney, New York Democrat, to immediately green-light a full committee hearing into the matter.

“Over the past two Congresses, this Committee has held seven hearings on a range of issues relating to Afghanistan,” the wrote to Mrs. Maloney. “But surprisingly, you have not announced plans to conduct congressional oversight of the dramatic and deteriorating situation in Kabul. We call on you to immediately convene a hearing of the full Committee.”

Oversight Republicans list more than 20 specific questions for Messrs. Blinken and Austin they expect to be answered during their testimony. A key question many in Congress have is concerning U.S. intelligence assessments leading up to the withdrawal, and whether the rapid pace with which the Taliban gained control could have been foreseen.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told reporters Wednesday that officials misjudged the Taliban’s ability to overthrow the Afghan government in such a short timespan.

The Oversight Committee’s probe would also dive into the Biden administration’s evacuation planning, and whether the administration intends to continue providing financial assistance to Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

“This Committee has a responsibility to continue to conduct robust oversight of Afghanistan as well as the Biden Administration’s decision-making over the past eight months,” the lawmakers wrote. “To not schedule a hearing is a dereliction of duty and an abdication of congressional authority and responsibility.”

On Sunday, the world watched chaotic scenes play out in Kabul. Met with little resistance, the Taliban seized the city and overtook the Presidential Palace after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country amid the turmoil.

Afghan citizens scrambled to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul in a last-minute attempt to escape the Taliban’s rule. Flights were temporarily grounded amid the chaos, further complicating the efforts to evacuate U.S. civilians and Afghan evacuees.

Republicans on Capitol Hill have been critical of Mr. Biden’s decision to fully withdraw from Afghanistan, saying his administration set an arbitrary, unrealistic timeline for the withdrawal which they said would spell disaster for the democratically elected Afghan government. Lawmakers were also critical of the administration’s lack of a plan for ensuring stability on the ground and evacuating Afghan allies who supported the U.S.-led war effort.

Congressional Democrats have also committed to probing the Biden administration on the withdrawal. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory W. Meeks, New York Democrat, has invited Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary Lloyd Austin to testify before his committee.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, called for an unclassified telephone briefing for all House members Friday and an in-person classified briefing for a select group of lawmakers Tuesday.

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