McCaul reconsidering holding Blinken in contempt over Afghan cable

 May 31, 2023

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-TX) said on Monday that Secretary of State Anthony Blinken may be held in contempt of Congress if he doesn't let all the members of the committee see the text of a cable message from U.S. diplomats in Afghanistan to U.S. officials in dissent of a planned military pullout from the region.

Blinken did allow committee leaders to view the document but cited security concerns for not allowing all 51 committee members to see it as requested by McCaul.

McCaul had put plans to hold Blinken in contempt on hold prior to being allowed to see the documents, but he has since pushed for more access and said contempt actions would not be off the table forever if the subpoena wasn't more fully complied with.

“It is vital to me that we preserve the integrity of that process and that channel, that we not take any steps that could have a chilling effect on the willingness of others to come forward in the future,” Blinken told McCaul in March.

Republicans need to know

But McCaul said that “if brave and dedicated officials are disincentivized to provide their honest and candid assessments in future communications with Department leadership, it will be because the Administration failed to heed their warnings in July 2021 and not because Congress seeks a full accounting for the American people.”

The committee wants to know exactly what happened in the runup to the pullout, when 13 U.S. soldiers were killed by a suicide bomb blast.

McCaul found great value in seeing the cable, and felt that the entire committee needed to have access to it.

Reading the cable “has significantly enhanced my understanding of the deteriorating conditions on the ground in Afghanistan and the direness of the dissenting officials’ warnings to the Department’s leadership” and that the cable “makes clear the remarkable extent to which the dissenters accurately predicted the situation on the ground and the Department’s course of action in Afghanistan, and that the Department’s actions taken in response were grossly inadequate.”

Civilian warning

The cable reportedly warned U.S. officials of the imminent Afghan military collapse and a near-term Taliban takeover,  pushing the State Department to speed up its evacuation planning, asking for more help dealing with the glut of special immigrant visa applications, and to safeguard Afghans who had assisted U.S. forces in the country.

The cable was apparently ignored, because the pullout occurred on schedule and had disastrous results.

The U.S. left the Taliban in charge of the country with thousands of American citizens and many thousands of Afghans behind.

It was a turning point in Biden's first term, even if it was only eight months in, and caused his approval ratings to start going down.

All downhill

He really never got his footing back fully after the deadly incident, and his presidency has seemed to be a long line of failures since that time.

Republicans are hoping to shed light on what happened to keep it from happening again and learn from any mistakes they find.

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