- The Washington Times - Friday, February 17, 2023

The House Oversight and Accountability Committee is demanding that several Biden administration officials hand over documents and communications as the panel launches a probe into the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.

Committee Chairman James Comer sent a series of letters on Friday to top officials at the Pentagon, State Department, Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Agency for International Development, each containing detailed requests for information dating back to President Biden’s inauguration concerning the administration‘s contingency planning and execution of the withdrawal.

“The Biden administration was tragically unprepared for the Afghanistan withdrawal and their decisions in the region directly resulted in a national security and humanitarian catastrophe,” Mr. Comer, Kentucky Republican, said in a statement. “Every relevant department and agency should be prepared to cooperate and provide all requested information. The American people expect nothing less.”  

Republicans have long demanded that the administration account for the disorganized exit from Afghanistan in August 2021 that left 13 U.S. troops dead, put Kabul in the hands of the Taliban and lost billions of dollars of military equipment that went into enemy hands.

Bipartisan fury in the immediate aftermath of the withdrawal led to a series of hearings on Capitol Hill, though those efforts quickly devolved into partisan blame trading.

Democrats argued that Mr. Biden’s hands were tied by former President Donald Trump’s agreement with the Taliban to withdraw U.S. troops.

Mr. Comer said his efforts to probe the withdrawal were blocked under Democrats’ control of the House.

Republican staffers on both the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations Committees issued reports detailing key decisions made by the Biden administration that GOP lawmakers say contributed to the disastrous outcome.

A 64-page report led by Sen. James E. Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, detailed how Mr. Biden failed to plan for worst-case scenarios, ignored intelligence reports and put U.S. credibility on the line for years to come.

The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael T. McCaul of Texas, issued a separate “interim” report further detailing the administration’s “complete lack of failure to plan.”

Both reports left many questions unanswered.

Now, with Republicans in the majority in the House, the GOP has pledged to renew the efforts.

Last month, Mr. McCaul opened his committee’s investigation into the withdrawal with requests for documents and communications from Secretary of State Antony Blinken related to the evacuation. His panel, which has jurisdiction over the State Department, will also probe the lingering effects of the withdrawal, including the thousands of Afghans who were left behind after serving alongside U.S. forces

Mr. Comer has signaled a broad examination of the withdrawal, despite what he says are the Biden administration’s attempt to obstruct oversight into the matter.

“With the power of the gavel, Oversight Republicans are determined to provide answers, transparency, and accountability,” he said. 

• Joseph Clark can be reached at jclark@washingtontimes.com.

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