House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas) has called for nine current and former U.S. diplomats to testify about their role in the chaotic U.S. withdrawal efforts from Afghanistan two years ago.
In a series of letters coinciding with the two-year anniversary of the last U.S. soldiers boarding a transport plane out of Afghanistan, Mr. McCaul identified nine key current and former U.S. diplomatic officials who could shed light on the conclusion of the 20-year war in Afghanistan.
The following is the list of officials Mr. McCaul requested:
- Ross L. Wilson, former acting U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan;
- Brian McKeon, former deputy secretary of state for management and resources;
- Zalmay Khalilzad, former U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation;
- Carol Perez, former acting under secretary of state for management;
- Ambassador John Bass, under secretary of state for management and former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan;
- Derek Chollet, counselor to the secretary;
- Suzy George, chief of staff to the secretary;
- Salman Ahmed, director, policy planning staff; and
- Dean Thompson, U.S. ambassador to Nepal, former acting assistant secretary for south and central Asia.
The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was still underway as the Taliban terrorist group captured large swathes of territory throughout the country, including the capital city of Kabul. As the Taliban took Kabul, the Western-backed Afghan government collapsed. U.S. troops and diplomatic officials continued to evacuate tens of thousands of civilians through a single airport, the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, all the while hoping that an uneasy peace would hold with their Taliban enemies of the prior two decades.
While the Taliban largely permitted the United States to finish evacuating its citizens and allies from the country, the ISIS-K terrorist group became emboldened and carried out a suicide attack at the Kabul airport on Aug. 26, 2021, detonating a bomb that killed 13 U.S. troops and dozens more civilians.
“Through our ongoing investigation, we have determined these individuals have important information that is critical to uncovering how and why the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan resulted in a disgraceful surrender to the Taliban, the death of 13 U.S. servicemembers and injuring 45 more—all which could have been prevented,” Mr. McCaul said on Wednesday.
The Republican House committee chairman described the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan overseen by President Joe Biden’s administration as an “unmitigated disaster of epic proportions” and vowed that he would not stop investigating the withdrawal “until the American people receive the transparency and answers they deserve.”
Mr. McCaul shared copies of letters he sent to each of the four former U.S. diplomats, as well as a letter (pdf) to Secretary of State Antony Blinken that requested the testimony of the five diplomats still serving. The Republican lawmaker asked that each of the nine current and former officials arrange a time for a transcribed interview with Congress by Sept. 7.
The State Department did not specify whether Mr. Blinken would approve some of the congressional interview requests but said it has cooperated with the post-withdrawal investigations thus far.
“The Department will continue to respond to congressional oversight requests in a timely manner, including requests for transcribed interviews,” a State Department spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “Already the Department has made thousands of pages of documents available, along with numerous and extensive interviews, briefings, and other informational engagements.”
Questions For Military Officials
Mr. McCaul’s request for testimony from the nine current and former U.S. diplomats is just one avenue of investigation. The State Department and Department of Defense both played critical roles in the withdrawal and evacuation operations.
Earlier this month, Mr. McCaul sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, requesting that he allow U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Brad Whited to sit for a transcribed interview before Congress. Lt. Col. Whited was the commanding officer of a sniper team involved in a security mission at Hamid Karzai International Airport during the airport evacuation. Earlier this year, one of Lt. Col. Whited’s Marines—Sergeant Tyler Vargas-Andrews—told the Foreign Affairs Committee that he believed he had identified the suspect behind the Aug. 26 suicide bombing and requested permission to shoot the suspect. He was not given a clear answer before the suspect disappeared into the crowd, mere hours before the bombing.
“It is essential to carefully examine these events to assess what happened that day and whether the Abbey Gate attack was avoidable,” Mr. McCaul said in his Aug. 15 letter to Mr. Austin. “For two years, not a single person within the Biden Administration has been held accountable for the catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan. I will not rest until we uncover every stone and get to the bottom of how this happened and who is responsible for these failures. Our service members, veterans, and our Gold Star families—especially those who lost family on August 26th at Abbey Gate—deserve answers.”