Republicans, veterans’ groups ask for hearings on Afghan withdrawal

Republican lawmakers and veterans’ groups are calling for an investigation and open congressional hearings into how the Biden administration carried out its withdrawal of U.S. troops and evacuation of American residents and Afghan allies from Afghanistan in 2021.

The eight GOP lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia, and Nonproliferation are calling for “an intensive investigation into President Biden’s bungled withdrawal of U.S. forces from the nation,” in keeping with a letter obtained by NBC News. The letter is addressed to the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-Fla.

The Republican members of the subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over Afghanistan, argue that the State Department didn’t set up a process to evacuate Americans in Afghanistan, and as an alternative relied on “casual networks of veterans, congressional staffers, and NGOs to do its job of coordinating with American residents and Afghans on the bottom.”

“There stay important unanswered questions relating to the planning, intelligence, choice making, interagency coordination, aftermath, and penalties of the withdrawal,” they wrote. “But one factor is evident, the administration’s speaking level that they did one of the best they may with what they’d is transparently false.”  

Eighteen veterans’ groups are becoming a member of the decision for an investigation and open hearings with testimony from Biden administration officers. Led by the Special Operations Association of America (SOAA), the groups penned a letter to Meeks and to Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, rating member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, on Thursday, saying the general public “deserve[s] a clear and strong investigation into the choice to withdraw from Afghanistan,” and “the instability that ensued in consequence.” Several groups concerned in evacuating individuals from Afghanistan co-signed the letter, together with Task Force Pineapple, Project Exodus Relief and Task Force Argo.

“The American individuals deserve solutions about what occurred in Afghanistan,” they wrote. 

The CEO of SOAA mentioned it’s time to examine the chaotic withdrawal.

“During the NEO (Noncombatant Evacuation Operations) and the months after it was the fitting name to focus on serving to as many vetted Afghans as doable, as hundreds had been being actively hunted by the [Taliban],” Daniel Elkins mentioned in an e-mail to NBC News. “However, now’s the time to start out asking questions to make sure the occasions of final 12 months by no means occur once more.”

McCaul agrees on the necessity for open hearings. He despatched his personal letter to Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Brian McKeon Thursday asking the State Department to take part in open and unclassified briefings and hearings. 

McKeon and different State Department officers carried out a closed-door, categorised briefing on Afghanistan coverage for the Foreign Affairs Committee on June 15. McCaul is now asking for among the unclassified content material to be made public. 

“Having participated on this categorised briefing, you’re conscious that almost all of the dialogue was unclassified. As a end result, and to reiterate the particular requests of members in attendance, I search to have the 5 unclassified opening statements supplied to all HFAC members,” McCaul wrote. 

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has oversight over the State Department. 

In a press release, a House Foreign Affairs Committee spokesperson mentioned, “The committee has held a number of briefings and hearings which have touched on Afghanistan for the reason that August withdrawal at each the member and employees degree. This features a member-level briefing simply final week with 5 senior-level State Department officers, which sadly lots of the signatories of that letter didn’t attend. The committee has additionally been appreciative of the division’s cooperation and responsiveness to our requests for data on Afghanistan, a noticeable departure from the earlier administration.”

There are nonetheless about 300 American residents in Afghanistan, in keeping with State Department figures. The State Department says greater than 80 of them are actively making an attempt to go away the nation.

The State Department has acquired greater than 67,500 purposes for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) and about 9,000 candidates have been authorised by the U.S. chief of mission however haven’t left Afghanistan.

About 47,000 Afghans who’ve already left Afghanistan have utilized for U.S. humanitarian parolee standing, however of these 5,400 have been denied and solely about 300 have been authorised.

The State Department didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

Abigail Williams contributed.

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