The House Armed Services Committee’s top Republican Mike Rogers vowed Wednesday to hold President Biden accountable for the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in his opening remarks for the full committee markup of the next major defense authorization bill.
The committee’s markup on the yearly National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) comes just days after the U.S. withdrew its last remaining troops from Afghanistan after two decades of war, leaving the country in the hands of the Taliban and more than 100 U.S. citizens left behind.
“Today’s markup begins our duty to conduct oversight on the withdrawal from Afghanistan,” Mr. Rogers said in his opening remarks. “But it cannot end here. We must find out what advice President Biden ignored in making these disastrous decisions.”
The Alabama Republican specifically called for the administration to answer “exactly how many Americans President Biden left behind,” how much military equipment was turned over to the Taliban, and a plan to defeat terrorism in Afghanistan going forward.
“There are many more questions about what happened in Afghanistan that must be answered,” he said. “It is the duty of this committee to find the answers. There is a tremendous amount of anger among Members on my side of the aisle over the blunder that unfolded in Afghanistan.”
But House Armed Service Committee Chairman Adam Smith, Washington state Democrat, said the committee’s inquiry into Afghanistan should focus on the entire course of the 20-year war that Mr. Biden inherited.
“If we’re going to honestly look at Afghanistan, we need to look at all 20 years,” he said.
About two dozen House Republicans, many of whom served in Afghanistan, gathered at the Capitol Tuesday and called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to reconvene Congress to address the desperate situation in Afghanistan.
“Never in my lifetime would I believe that America would have an administration knowingly make a decision to leave Americans behind,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said Tuesday. “Whereas just two weeks ago, the president promised this nation that he would not leave until every single American was out.”
The group of GOP lawmakers wanted the House to take up a bill introduced last week by Rep. Mike Gallagher, Wisconsin Republican, and member of the House Armed Services Committee, which would have prohibited President Biden from withdrawing U.S. troops until all U.S. citizens are evacuated. The bill would also require the administration to submit to Congress a report on its efforts to evacuate U.S. citizens from Afghanistan.
The lawmakers sought recognition during Tuesday’s pro forma session on the House floor, but Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who was presiding over the session, gaveled the session closed before ceding the floor to the Republicans.
“House Democrats have had, not one, but two opportunities to join House Republicans in supporting legislation to hold this administration accountable and do whatever is necessary to save lives. Both times, they declined to join our efforts to do so. This is unacceptable,” said Mr. Gallagher. “American lives are on the line and we have a moral obligation to do everything we can to get them home. Congress cannot sit on the sidelines while hundreds of our fellow citizens have been left behind enemy lines.”
Mr. Rogers said Monday that committee Republicans would introduce close to 50 amendments to the NDAA aimed at President Biden’s handling of Afghanistan, including Mr. Gallagher’s bill.