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Tags: michael mccaul | state department | afghanistan

State Dept. Threatened on Delivering Afghanistan Docs

By    |   Tuesday, 21 March 2023 01:53 PM EDT

The State Department faces a subpoena if it doesn't deliver on repeated document requests related to the tumultuous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, said House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas.

In a 10-page Monday letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, McCaul set a Wednesday night deadline for the department to hand over at least three documents.

Blinken is expected to appear Thursday before the committee to discuss President Joe Biden's budget request for 2024.

"From its broader January 12 request, the Committee identified on January 30 three highly specific immediate priority items that are well-known to the Department," McCaul wrote.

"All of the items specified on March 3 could be produced extremely quickly if they were genuinely prioritized by the Department. … A 'diligent' process working in good faith to produce these documents 'as soon as practicable' would have produced them long ago."

McCaul has made it a priority for the panel to investigate the hasty U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Critics have blamed U.S. intelligence and the Biden administration for failing to identify warning signs that the government in Kabul would collapse, and for not having an effective plan to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies.

A suicide bombing killed 13 U.S. service members at Kabul International Airport during the chaotic evacuation.

"Over 18 months after the fall of Kabul, numerous key questions about the withdrawal remain unanswered," McCaul wrote. "The Committee has an obligation to investigate how these grievous failures occurred and determine what actions, including potential legislation, are necessary to help prevent a similar catastrophe from occurring again in the future."

The letter was posted by The Hill

One of the three documents is a July 2021 cable sent by at least 23 foreign service officers serving at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, warning the Afghan government was at risk of collapse due to a rapid advance by the Taliban, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The "Dissent Channel" is a formal communication procedure allowing State Department workers to alert the Secretary of State of dissenting opinions on foreign policy issues, without retribution.

"The Dissent Channel cable provides key contemporaneous evidence from U.S. officials on the ground in Afghanistan. The Department's formal response similarly offers critical insight into Department leadership's view of these concerns and what actions they took to address them," McCaul wrote.

"As such, these documents are critical and material to the Committee's investigation, and it is imperative that the State Department produce them in complete and unredacted form."

Other prioritized documents include an "After-Action" report prepared by Ambassador Daniel Smith, who was charged in December 2021 with carrying out a review of the Afghanistan withdrawal.

The committee also prioritized two other versions of the U.S. Embassy Kabul's "Emergency Action Plan," one in existence on Jan. 1, 2021 and the final version before the embassy's closure in August 2021. 

"The State Department employs a rigorous process to review documents and ensure that documents containing sensitive information which could harm our national security, jeopardize our international relationships, or put our women and men working around the world in harm's way, are adequately protected," the State Department wrote to McCaul, the Hill reported.

"For those reasons, unfortunately, the process means few things are produced 'with ease' and instead takes a bit more time."

McCaul called the failure to provide docs, and the reasoning, "unacceptable and unreasonable."

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The State Department faces a subpoena if it doesn't deliver on repeated document requests related to the tumultuous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, said House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas.
michael mccaul, state department, afghanistan
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2023-53-21
Tuesday, 21 March 2023 01:53 PM
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