Republican lawmakers and veteran groups are calling for congressional investigations and public hearings into how the Biden administration is planning to withdraw US troops and evacuation of US citizens and Afghan allies from Afghanistan for 2021.
The eight GOP lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Asia, Pacific, Central Asia and Non-Proliferation are calling for “a thorough investigation into President Biden’s botched withdrawal of US troops from the country,” it said. a letter obtained by NBC News. The letter is addressed to the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-Fla.
The Republican members of the subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over Afghanistanclaim the State Department has not established a procedure to evacuate Americans in Afghanistan, instead relying on “informal networks of veterans, congressional staff and NGOs to do its job of coordinating with American citizens and Afghans on the ground.”
“Key unanswered questions remain about the planning, intelligence, decision-making, inter-agency coordination, aftermath and consequences of the withdrawal,” they wrote. “But one thing is clear, the government’s point is that they’ve tried their best with what they had is transparently incorrect.”
Eighteen veteran groups join the call for an investigation and public hearings of testimony from officials of the Biden administration. Led by the Special Operations Association of America (SOAA), the groups wrote a letter to Meeks and Rep. Foreign Affairs Committee member Michael McCaul, R-Texas, saying the public “deserves”[s] a transparent and thorough investigation into the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan’, and ‘the resulting instability’. Several groups involved in the evacuation of people from Afghanistan have co-signed the letter, including Task Force Pineapple, Project Exodus Relief and Task Force Argo.
“The American people deserve answers about what happened in Afghanistan,” they wrote.
SOAA’s CEO said it’s time to investigate the chaotic withdrawal.
“During the NEO (Noncombatant Evacuation Operations) and the months that followed, it was the right call to focus on helping as many vetted Afghans as possible, as thousands were actively hunted down by the [Taliban]Daniel Elkins said in an email to NBC News. “However, now is the time to ask questions to ensure that last year’s events never happen again.”
McCaul agrees on the need for open hearings. He sent his own letter to Assistant Secretary of State for Management and Resources Brian McKeon on Thursday, asking the State Department to participate in open and unclassified briefings and hearings.
McKeon and other State Department officials held a secret briefing on Afghanistan’s policy before the Foreign Affairs Committee on June 15 behind closed doors. McCaul is now asking for some of the unclassified content to be made public.
“You attended this secret briefing and you know that most of the discussion was unclassified. As a result, and to echo the specific requests of members in attendance, I strive to have the five unclassified opening statements provided to all HFAC members,” McCaul wrote.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee oversees the State Department.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the House Foreign Affairs Committee said: “The committee has held several briefings and hearings related to Afghanistan since the withdrawal in August, at both member and staff levels. This includes a member-level briefing last week. with five senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who unfortunately many of the signatories to that letter did not attend.The Committee also appreciates the Ministry’s cooperation and responsiveness to our requests for information about Afghanistan, a noticeable departure from the previous government.”
According to State Department figures, there are still about 300 American citizens in Afghanistan. The State Department says more than 80 of them are actively trying to leave the country.
The State Department has received more than 67,500 applications for special immigrant visas (SIVs), and about 9,000 applicants have been approved by the US chief of mission, but have not left Afghanistan.
About 47,000 Afghans who have already left Afghanistan have applied for US humanitarian parole, but of those 5,400 have been rejected and only about 300 have been approved.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.