Republicans open second probe into US withdrawal from Afghanistan

Representative says 'Biden administration was tragically unprepared' to end nation's longest war

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Several top officials in President Joe Biden's administration received a letter on Friday from Republicans in the House of Representatives, as the second congressional investigation into the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan was launched.

Republican James Comer, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, sent a series of letters to senior leadership at the White House, the Department of Defence, the State Department and others requesting a tranche of documents related to the end of America's longest war.

“The Biden administration was tragically unprepared for the Afghanistan withdrawal and their decisions in the region directly resulted in a national security and humanitarian catastrophe,” Mr Comer said in a statement.

Republicans have been vowing to press Mr Biden’s administration on what went wrong when the Taliban swept to power in Afghanistan in August 2021, with the US leaving scores of Americans and thousands of Afghans who helped them over the years in grave danger.

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Now with the power of the gavel, House Republicans are elevating that criticism into aggressive congressional oversight of a topic that has been met with bipartisan support in the past.

In a statement, the State Department said that while it does not comment on congressional correspondence, the agency is committed to working with committees.

“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,” the statement added.

The letters come nearly a month after Republican Mike McCaul, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, opened his own investigation into the withdrawal, requesting documents from Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Mr McCaul’s letter outlined a request for all communications around the lead-up to pulling US troops out of Afghanistan.

He also made it clear that his committee, which has jurisdiction over the matter, also plans to investigate the aftereffects of the withdrawal, including on the hundreds of thousands of Afghan allies left behind.

The Donald Trump administration agreed late in its term to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan in May 2021, with the former president saying in 2020: “Now it’s time for somebody else to do that work.”

But Republicans are intent on reminding Americans that it was Mr Biden who was in charge when the Taliban took over.

And the criticism over the issue began in a bipartisan manner, with several Democrat-led committees pledging to investigate what went wrong in the days and weeks after the withdrawal.

US officials have said they were surprised by the quick collapse of the Afghan military and the government, prompting sharp congressional criticism of the intelligence community for failing to foresee it.

Last year, a watchdog group concluded it was decisions by Mr Biden and Mr Trump to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan that were key factors in the collapse of that nation’s military.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Updated: February 17, 2023, 8:09 PM