House Republicans who have pilloried President Joe Biden’s foreign policy revved up their push to obtain information about disagreements within the administration over 2021 withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
A subpoena scheduled to be served at the State Department on Tuesday seeks an internal cable reportedly written by 23 U.S. officials criticizing aspects of the exit plan, which resulted in the almost immediate takeover by the Taliban.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, signed the subpoena, which comes a week after his tense exchange with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the issue.
“The American people deserve answers as to how this tragedy unfolded, and why 13 U.S. servicemembers lost their lives,” McCaul said in a statement Tuesday.
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Why is the dissent cable important?
Many GOP lawmakers argue the dissent cable is a critical piece of information because it spotlights how there were early warnings within the Biden administration about what would happen in Afghanistan once the U.S. left.
“The cable warned the administration was not properly prepared for President Biden’s decision to unilaterally withdraw all U.S. troops from the country,” a statement from the GOP-run House Foreign Affairs Committee said.
McCaul’s committee specifically points to a 2021 article in The Wall Street Journal which described an internal State Department memo that had “warned top agency officials” about Afghanistan’s potential collapse.
The panel also wants to see Blinken’s response to the dissent document.
What does the State Department say?
State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said on Monday, before the subpoena was issued, that they are committed to working with congressional leaders.
“And the department has provided more than 200 briefings to bipartisan members and staff on Afghanistan policy since the withdrawal,” he said.
In terms of the dissent cable, however, the administration views those exchanges as beyond Congress’s oversight realm.
“But on the dissent cable, the tradition of having a dissent channel is one that is cherished here in the department and goes back decades,” Patel said Monday.
“It is a unique way for anyone in the department to speak truth to power as they see it without fear or favor,” he added. “And they do it via the regulations we have established for these cables in a privileged and confidential way.”
Blinken made a similar point when told the committee that he opposes releasing the document because to do so would chill the future willingness of diplomats to speak candidly about sensitive topics.
The State Department did offer to share the substance of the cable with lawmakers before McCaul made his subpoena threat, according to a March 22 letter obtained by the AP.
In announcing the subpoena, McCaul offered to review the document in private without a public release.