Afghan Departure Prompts Congress to Question Administration
Members of both the House and Senate are scheduled to question the Biden administration on the bungled U.S. departure from Afghanistan.
The Biden administration is set to be interrogated by members of both the House and the Senate over the botched U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, where the Taliban's rapid gains caught senior officials off guard and forced them to flee.
Congress may begin questioning President Biden and his staff as early as next week when it returns from its week-long summer vacation before returning to Washington for the rest of the month.
The Afghan withdrawal." Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) wrote to President Joe Biden on Wednesday, requesting a briefing or conference call with the "Gang of Eight"—the top four congressional leaders, as well as members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees—next week. Biden did not respond to the letter.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has requested three briefings on the next legislative session:
Pelosi will have three briefings this week: one unclassified briefing for all House members on Friday, one secret briefing for all House members on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m., and one "Gang of Eight" briefing that is in the works but has not yet been completed, according to a Pelosi staffer.
In her remarks, Pelosi said to KPIX, a San Francisco television, "it will take happen early next week; at the very least, it will begin then."
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) has not publicly set a timetable for when the first hearing could occur, nor has he indicated that he is considering holding the hearing next week as a possible date.
However, he said that he had asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to testify in the case.
"Given the constantly changing nature of the situation in Afghanistan, the administration must give the American people and Congress full openness about its Afghanistan policy," Meeks said.
He went on to say that he was interested in hearing what "Following the collapse of the Ghani government, the administration's plan is to safely evacuate American citizens, [special immigrant visa holders], and other vulnerable Afghans from the country, as well as to understand our broader counter-terrorism strategy in South Asia."
Additionally, the House Armed Services Committee is "in the process of arranging private briefings for Members to ensure that they get the most up-to-date information," Monica Matoush, a spokeswoman for the committee, told The Hill in an email on Wednesday.
The committee's chairman, the Democratic Representative Adam Smith of Washington, who she said, supports the "decisions made" and the "rationale" from Biden, is "in contact with [White House] and Department of Defense officials" and is urging administration officials "to do everything in their power to safely evacuate" U.S. personnel. These Afghan nationals aided the U.S. military and their family members, as well as Afghan refugees.
In addition to the two House committees, two Senate committee chairmen have stated that they will hold hearings into the Trump administration's negotiations with the Taliban and how the Biden administration miscalculated how quickly the Afghan government and military would fall. The hearings will take place in the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) have not set a date for the hearings or announced who they want to call witnesses.
The Senate will be out of town until the middle of September, according to the timetable.
"What went wrong in Afghanistan and lessons learned to avoid repeating those mistakes," Reed said.
Menendez added the committee would conduct hearings on the Trump administration's "flawed negotiations" and the Biden administration's "flawed implementation" of the withdrawal.
"The Committee will investigate these failings and why the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces fell so fast.
Congress frequently assured the Afghan Defense and Security Forces that they had the soldiers, equipment, and desire to fight, "Menendez stated.
Another senator, Mark Warner (D-VA), said he would cooperate with other panels to ask "tough but essential questions."
The Democratic-led committees want to hear from Biden officials publicly or privately, as the president has generated widespread bipartisan anger about the U.S. withdrawal.
Several senators from both parties say their staff is swamped with requests for assistance.
A weekend of chaos and calls from family members or people stranded in Afghanistan created public tensions between Congress and the White House.
In the months after his inauguration, Democrats have remained mostly united behind Biden.
Meanwhile, Republicans are slamming Biden for his handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal.