- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2023

The State Department faces a close-of-business deadline Monday to turn over to Congress a secret dissent cable that Republicans say will shed new light on the chaotic U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan and reveal internal warnings from inside the Biden administration about the looming disaster.

Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas Republican and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he’s prepared to file a subpoena by the end of the day Monday over the cables, which were sent in July 2021 just weeks before the U.S. began its frantic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The State Department so far has refused to release the documents, which reportedly included dissenting opinions from 23 U.S. employees who raised concerns about how the administration was handling the withdrawal process.

“It’s extraordinary. You have 23 embassy employees dissenting to the policy of the secretary of state and the White House,” Mr. McCaul told “Fox News Sunday.” “We want to know and the American people deserve to know and the veterans and the Gold Star mothers deserve to know what were in those dissenting cables, what was so important that these 23 employees were reaching out at the highest levels, saying we disagree with your policy.”

“And that’s why if they don’t deliver by Monday, close of business, I will serve that subpoena,” Mr. McCaul said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken maintains that the contents of internal dissent cables must remain largely private and anonymous to protect the process, which allows employees to raise concerns and express dissent without fear of reprisal.

“By our regulations, these cables may only be shared with senior officials in the department,” Mr. Blinken told a congressional hearing last week when pressed about the cables. “Again, that’s to protect the integrity of the process to make sure we don’t have a chilling effect on those who might want to come forward, knowing that they will have their identities protected and that they can do so, again, without fear or favor. Having said that, I very much understand and appreciate that there is a real interest in the substance of that particular cable by this committee.”

The subpoena from Mr. McCaul is likely to touch off a legal fight with the State Department over the cable.

The August 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan, which marked the end of America’s 20-year war, is a top priority for House Republicans.

Mr. McCaul and other GOP leaders say the administration has failed to provide answers to a host of questions about the weeks and months leading up to the pullout, including why the U.S. was unable to get all American citizens out of the country before the extremist Taliban retook control of Kabul.

There are about 175 Americans still in Afghanistan and some of them are being held captive by the Taliban, Mr. Blinken told Congress last week.

Republicans also say that the administration failed to anticipate just how rapidly the U.S.-backed Afghan government would collapse.

The Taliban’s lightning offensive overran government forces and retook Kabul before the U.S. could evacuate its own personnel or Afghan allies who aided the American war effort over a period of two decades.

Amid the push to evacuate those individuals from the Kabul airport in August 2021, an Islamic State suicide bomber killed 13 U.S. Marines and nearly 200 Afghans.

A House hearing earlier this month revealed new details about that tragic incident, including revelations that American troops say that could have taken out the bomber beforehand.

But they said they were refused permission to take out the target amid apparent confusion over who could give the order to fire in such a chaotic environment.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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