US Republicans probe chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal

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Republicans have launched an investigation into the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan that sparked a lightning takeover of the war-ravaged country by the Taliban and the death of 13 American troops in a militant attack.

Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Friday he had written to Secretary of State Antony Blinken requesting an array of records, from intelligence assessments to communications with the Taliban.

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“It is absurd and disgraceful that the Biden administration has repeatedly denied our longstanding oversight requests and continues to withhold information related to the withdrawal,” said McCaul, a longstanding opposition member on the panel who became its chairman after the House flipped to Republican control at the start of the year.

“In the event of continued noncompliance, the committee will use the authorities available to it to enforce these requests as necessary, including through a compulsory process.”

The US soldiers were killed on August 26, 2021 in a bombing outside Kabul’s airport as the capital fell, with the government crumbling days later despite $2 trillion pumped into Afghanistan over two decades.

Images of crowds storming parked planes, climbing atop aircraft, and some clinging to a departing US military cargo plane as it rolled down the runway, were aired around the world.

The scenes preceded a sharp drop in President Joe Biden’s approval ratings, nine months after he was elected promising smooth, competent leadership after the political pandemonium under his predecessor Donald Trump.

While Trump sealed the withdrawal with the Taliban, his Republican Party has roundly criticized Biden’s handling of the operation and vowed hearings as part of a series of probes into his administration.

The State Department responded that “it is committed to working with congressional committees with jurisdiction over US foreign policy” to help them “conduct oversight for their legitimate legislative purposes.”

“As of November 2022, the Department has provided more than 150 briefings to bipartisan members and staff on Afghanistan policy since the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan,” a State Department spokesperson said.

Around 2,500 US troops died in America’s longest war but Afghanistan is no longer a priority back home, with 50 percent of respondents to a Gallup poll conducted a year after the withdrawal saying the entire war was a mistake.

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