The U.S. State Department said Monday it will not fulfill U.S. lawmakers’ request for the full Biden administration report on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“It’s unfortunate that despite having received a classified briefing on the dissent channel cable as well as a written summary that the House Foreign Affairs Committee continues to pursue this unnecessary and unproductive action,” State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters.
“Nevertheless, we will continue to respond to appropriate oversight inquiries and provide Congress the information it needs to do its job while protecting the ability of State Department employees to do theirs.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul called on U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken last month to release the administration’s after-action report on the chaotic August 2021 U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“There is a strong public interest in the Department sharing the results of its After-Action Review to the fullest extent possible,” McCaul wrote, noting large portions of the report are marked as sensitive but unclassified or unclassified.
According to McCaul, the 87-page March 2022 After-Action Review contains numerous unexplained redactions and directly contradicts the Biden administration’s public statements which largely blamed the failures of the withdrawal on the previous administration of President Donald Trump.
McCaul asked the State Department to release the full report by Friday, May 5.
McCaul said Monday the State Department has also failed to comply with its subpoena to release the July 2021 cable from diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul using the “dissent channel.”
“The Department is now in violation of its legal obligation to produce these documents and must do so immediately,” McCaul wrote in a letter to Blinken Monday. “As noted above, should the Department fail to comply with its legal obligation, the Committee is prepared to take the necessary steps to enforce its subpoena, including holding you in contempt of Congress and/or initiating a civil enforcement proceeding.”
The House Foreign Affairs Committee has conducted oversight hearings into the withdrawal, including the August 26, 2021 suicide bomb at Kabul Airport that killed 13 U.S. service members and 170 Afghan civilians.
The Biden administration report said decisions made by the Trump administration to negotiate with the Taliban and set a withdrawal date for U.S. troops prevented an orderly U.S. evacuation.
“When you look at what President Biden inherited, the timeline that was required and the agreement that was reached in the Trump administration, the President did everything he could to manage that situation,” Democratic Rep. David Cicilline, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told VOA last month. “But there are a set of decisions made by the prior administration that made that more difficult.”
The U.S. State Department briefed lawmakers late last month on the contents of the cable and the report.
McCaul, a Republican from Texas, told VOA that was not sufficient.
“I think if you redact the names, that Congress has the right to know the content, and that's all we asked from the Secretary — you can redact the names, we'll review in a classified setting,” he said. “But I want to know firsthand the content, I don't want it filtered through your people.”
Nike Ching contributed to this report.