'Blatant Obstruction': GOP Lawmaker Blasts Biden for Withholding Information on Afghanistan Withdrawal

Taliban fighters in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2021 (Getty Images)
January 23, 2023

The Biden administration is withholding scores of documents and communications related to its botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, according to the newly installed chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. 

"I will not tolerate the Biden administration’s blatant obstruction of numerous congressional requests relating to the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal," Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Washington Free Beacon. "Democrats have utterly failed to hold this administration accountable when our veterans and gold star wives deserve answers."

McCaul says Republicans are ramping up oversight efforts meant to expose how the United States ignored intelligence indicating the country would fall to the Taliban. Upon taking the reins at the House Foreign Affairs Committee, McCaul sent a letter to the State Department asking it to turn over documents that could be used to provide the American public with a full account of the chaotic operation.

The State Department has refused for nearly a year and a half to hand over information about how many Americans remain stranded in the country, intelligence reports warning the country could collapse, internal assessments about the threat posed by ISIS and the Taliban, information about the Biden administration’s current engagement with the Taliban, and internal documents related to the deadly strike on Hamid Karzai International Airport that killed 13 American military members.

Without these documents, lawmakers are unable to piece together how the Biden administration’s hurried evacuation from the country fell apart. This information is viewed as central to efforts by both Democrats and Republicans to hold the administration accountable for its actions during the 2021 withdrawal.

"Past requests for documents and information on the withdrawal dating back to August 2021 have generally gone unanswered for well over a year," McCaul wrote in the Jan. 12 letter to the State Department. "It is imperative that the State Department provide complete responses to these longstanding requests, and the committee will not tolerate continued delay."

Congressional sources familiar with the issue said the State Department has not provided any documents requested by lawmakers as far back as August 2021.

The amount of information and documentation being withheld by the State Department comprises nearly 10 pages of McCaul’s letter, revealing the sheer number of documents the administration is keeping hidden.

This includes "all reports, intelligence assessments, and intelligence community products" centered on "the potential collapse or sustainability of the pre-Taliban government." These documents are seen as vital to questions about whether the Biden administration knew its planned withdrawal would create the conditions needed for the Taliban to resurface and take power.

McCaul also wants "all documents resulting from State Department internal reviews related to the Afghanistan withdrawal." This information could show the State Department did not adequately plan to evacuate U.S. personnel from the country and was caught off guard when the Taliban began preventing Americans from leaving the country. In the weeks after the 2021 evacuation, it became clear that the Biden administration has abandoned far more Americans than it publicly admitted, the Free Beacon reported at the time.

The Foreign Affairs Committee also is seeking "a list of all State Department and all other U.S. Government meetings and engagements with the Taliban since January 20, 2021." These documents will show exactly how the United States is conducting diplomacy with the Taliban since they retook power. The Biden administration has been slow to answer specific questions about whether it is propping up the Taliban government and still providing it with taxpayer funds.

The State Department would not answer Free Beacon questions about McCaul’s oversight efforts, instead directing a reporter to recent remarks by spokesman Ned Price.

"This secretary is committed to engagement with this Congress," Price said at a Jan. 12 press briefing. "We deeply believe, truly believe, that our foreign policy will be more effective, it will convey more legitimacy when the Congress understands what it is that we are doing, why are we seeking to do it, and optimally if it has bipartisan support."

Price said McCaul was able to raise his concerns during meetings with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other senior officials held on Jan. 11.

Asked if the administration will comply with McCaul’s oversight efforts, Price said, "we look forward to continuing our engagement with this Congress on those areas that are of interest to them and that most importantly are of priority to the American people."