Biden administration accused of 'obstruction' in subpoena for Afghanistan files

House foreign affairs committee tries to obtain documents related to State Department's Afghanistan After-Action Review

Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the subpoena had been delivered directly to the Secretary of State. Getty / AFP
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US House foreign affairs committee chairman Michael McCaul on Tuesday subpoenaed the State Department in a bid to obtain documents related to its Afghanistan withdrawal report, accusing President Joe Biden's administration of “obstruction”.

Mr McCaul said in a statement that the subpoena was delivered directly to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday morning for the “Afghanistan AAR files” – the collection of underlying documents used to produce the State Department’s After-Action Review.

“The committee has been forced, by the department’s obstruction, to issue a subpoena,” Mr McCaul said.

The State Department After-Action Report, released last month, showed it had failed to adequately plan for a worst-case scenario in Washington's chaotic 2021 withdraw from Afghanistan.

The report painted a picture of a State Department caught flat-footed when the Taliban rolled into Kabul on August 15 with almost no resistance, triggering a massive US-led evacuation.

The Republican chairman is specifically after the investigation files associated with the After-Action Report and the about 60-page section of US Embassy Kabul Emergency Action Plans that were “completely redacted in a previous production”, Mr McCaul said.

“The department has refused to produce the Afghanistan AAR files to the committee, impeding its efforts to obtain transparency and accountability for the American people.”

In a tweet, Mr McCaul said that he signed the subpoena document with a pen given to him by the family of Hunter Lopez, a US Marine who was killed at the attack on Abbey Gate at the Kabul Airport during the tumultuous withdrawal.

The move is the latest in the heated back and forth between the Democratic Biden administration and the Republican-led House foreign affairs committee, which has increased investigations of the administration's role in the Taliban's takeover of Kabul.

The committee issued a subpoena in March for an internal confidential State Department document known as a “dissent cable”, sent by American diplomats who had warned that the Afghan government would collapse quickly after a US withdrawal.

Despite reaching a deal with the State Department on that cable, Mr McCaul in May threatened Mr Blinken with contempt of Congress, saying information that has been provided about that “dissent channel” were insufficient to satisfy the committee.

More recently, Mr McCaul criticised the department for declining to provide more details about why it had placed Robert Malley, the special envoy for Iran, on leave, calling the response “unacceptable”.

Updated: July 18, 2023, 10:06 PM