- Rep. Michael McCaul accused the White House of failing to plan the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
- McCaul is the ranking GOP member in the House’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
- His comments came as Republicans on the committee prepared a scathing report of the withdrawal.
Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, criticized the Biden administration and US State Department on Sunday for its “failure to plan” last year’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.
His comments came as Republican committee members prepared to release their report on the pullout, which the GOP has sought to serve as the basis for one of several probes into President Joe Biden and his inner circle. As of Sunday evening, it was unclear when the report will be published.
In an interview with CBS’ Margaret Brennan that was aired on Sunday, McCaul spoke of a “disconnect” between the intelligence that government agencies reported and the evacuation plans laid out by the White House for Afghanistan.
“In this report, it says it all, like: ‘There’s no way we’re going to evacuate embassy personnel from helicopters like we did in Vietnam.’ And of course, we know that happened,” McCaul said.
McCaul accused the White House of painting a “very rosy picture” of the situation in Afghanistan before Kabul’s collapse, despite the intelligence community and military reporting that the Taliban’s takeover was imminent.
He cited how the US had stationed just 36 consular staff at Hamid Karzai International Airport to facilitate the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people.
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“Even beforehand I think the State Department probably didn’t have the resources that it needed to carry out an evacuation of this size,” he told Brennan.
McCaul: US leaders broke promise to Afghan allies
“There are many sins, if you will. There was a complete lack and failure to plan. There was no plan, and there’s no plan executed,” McCaul said of the withdrawal.
He said that one of the biggest mistakes made was when the US turned down the Taliban’s offer for American forces to take over security for Kabul until the evacuation was complete.
“Think about what that would have changed,” he said, noting that the US had instead relied on the Taliban to secure the perimeter of the Kabul Airport, which “led to chaos.”
“It also led to a suicide bomber that killed 13 service members, men and women, and injured over hundreds of people. And it could have been avoided,” McCaul added.
The withdrawal from Afghanistan saw around 120,000 people airlifted out of Kabul, which Biden called an “extraordinary success” in a statement after the evacuation came to an end.
However, the mass evacuation was marred by reports of daily chaos at Kabul’s airport. Amid the operation, a suicide attack killed nearly 200 Afghans and 13 US military members, and a US drone strike mistakenly targeted a humanitarian aid worker and killed 10 other civilians.
Thousands of Afghans — many of who previously assisted the US — tried desperately to flee Taliban rule, with some filmed clinging to the hulls of planes as they took off.
McCaul said the US had broken its promise to those who had helped its forces but weren’t evacuated.
“One hundred thousand Afghan partners left behind — remember what we said, we will protect you. That was our promise to them, no one left behind,” McCaul said. “And we left them behind to the mercy of the Taliban, and now they’re being tortured and killed.”
The State Department estimated in July that around 74,000 Afghans who are still in Afghanistan have applied for special US visas, which are meant for those who once worked with American forces and organizations.
A year after the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan, the militant group has increasingly been reported to be curbing women’s rights and exacting revenge on those who acted against its regime, backtracking on its pledge not to do so.
GOP signal deeper investigation if they win House majority
The GOP report on the withdrawal accuses Biden of ignoring his military commanders’ advice and of disregarding the fates of thousands of Afghans left behind, per The Washington Post, which obtained the document.
The report also highlights that 3,000 members of Afghan security forces may have crossed into Iran, per The Post. If any of them had worked with the US military and were recruited by Iranian forces, it could pose a national security threat to the US, it adds.
The Post noted that the report mentions how Republicans on the committee want to launch a deeper investigation into the withdrawal if the GOP wins the House majority this year. They plan to call in over 40 people, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, for interviews — possibly setting the stage for an inquiry into Biden and his inner circle.
Such an investigation has been floated numerous times by Republican lawmakers seeking to pin grievous wrongdoing on the Biden administration, over matters ranging from the origins of COVID-19 to the withdrawal of Afghanistan to the dealings of the president’s son, Hunter Biden.
In a statement responding to the report, National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson called the findings a “partisan report” that is “riddled with inaccurate characterizations, cherry-picked information, and false claims.”
“When President Biden took office, he was faced with a choice: ramp up the war and put even more American troops at risk, or finally end the United States’ longest war after two decades of American presidents sending US troops to fight and die in Afghanistan and $2 trillion spent,” Watson wrote in a lengthy response.