The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee is threatening to subpoena Secretary of State Antony Blinken if he doesn’t provide requested documents related to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) wrote a letter to Blinken on Monday, demanding he provide all requested documents detailing the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan before the secretary is set to testify before Congress on Thursday. If Blinken fails to do so, McCaul said he would issue a subpoena for the materials.
“All of the items specified on March 3 could be produced extremely quickly if they were genuinely prioritized by the Department,” McCaul wrote. “The Committee routinely receives highly classified documents and information from the Department on the most sensitive issues confronting U.S. foreign policy, including ongoing threats posed by foreign adversaries. A ‘diligent’ process working in good faith to produce these documents ‘as soon as practicable’ would have produced them long ago.”
McCaul’s letter comes after months of requests from the committee chairman to obtain the documents giving a comprehensive overview of the chaotic withdrawal in September 2021 that saw more than 12,000 people airlifted out of the country as the Taliban quickly seized control of the government. The operation has been heavily scrutinized, particularly after a suicide attack outside the Kabul airport killed 13 Americans and roughly 200 Afghans.
McCaul initially requested information from Blinken on the withdrawal on Jan. 12, shortly after Republicans won control of the House. The Texas Republican issued a follow-up request in early March, specifically requesting three items crucial to lawmakers’ investigation “that they believed the Department could easily identify and produce.”
Blinken has not provided such documents to the committee, prompting criticism from panel Republicans who are preparing to question the secretary of state in a hearing on Thursday.
“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.”
McCaul accused President Joe Biden and his military leaders of conducting an ill-prepared withdrawal from Afghanistan, claiming Biden proceeded “in a manner inconsistent with the recommendations of military leaders and the warnings of diplomatic personnel.”
The State Department responded to McCaul’s multiple requests, noting officials were still sifting through the thousands of documents to provide the requested materials, according to the chairman. The department has said it will provide the documents “as soon as practicable.”
“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,” a department spokesperson told McCaul, according to the chairman’s letter. “For those reasons, unfortunately, the process means few things are produced ‘with ease’ and instead takes a bit more time.”
Blinken is set to testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday to answer questions on Biden’s proposed budget for the State Department in the next fiscal year.