House Republican warns of possible contempt charge for Blinken over Afghanistan document

Congress sets up possible battle with Biden administration

John Bowden
Washington DC
Monday 15 May 2023 07:01 BST
Blinken thanks Vladimir Putin for Finland joining Nato

The House of Representatives’ new Republican majority has just waded into another brawl with the Joe Biden administration.

Foreign Affairs committee chairman Michael McCaul said on Sunday that he plans to go forward with potential contempt charges for secretary of state Antony Blinken over the latter’s refusal to turn over a document known as a “dissent cable”, relating to the 2021 withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.

According to reports, the July 2021 cable, an internal State Department document, warned of the rapidly growing strength of the Taliban and the utter inability of Afghanistan’s security forces to defend large swathes of the country, which quickly fell into the militant group’s hands.

Mr McCaul and Republicans want the document released, as they argue it will prove that the Biden administration ignored advice from experts who warned of the rapid deterioration of the situation before Kabul fell to the Taliban. It was authored by nearly two dozen State Department officials previously stationed within the country.

The US withdrawal from Afghanistan became somewhat panicked with the fall of the capital city to Taliban forces, and questions have arisen about whether the administration should have been caught off guard – evidenced by officials’ statements touting the strength of the Afghan national army.

The chaotic evacuation of Kabul led to horrifying scenes of Afghan civilians rushing to moving jets and in some cases dying while attempting to cling to departing AC-130 cargo planes used to evacuate US forces and equipment from the city.

Just over a dozen US troops were also killed in the final days by an Isis-aligned suicide bomber, while a US operation supposedly aimed at destroying another suicide bomber ended in the deaths of an entire Afghan family.

The surreal and tragic situation was picked apart from all sides in the days and months after the evacuation concluded, with some arguing that the Biden administration should have been better prepared for the fall of Kabul, while others argued that the White House should have surged troops back to the region once the instability of the Afghan government was obvious.

The withdrawal from Afghanistan had actually begun under former president Donald Trump, who set a deadline for the pullout that the Biden administration was forced to extend for several months.

After the agreed-upon deadline, any US forces in the country were set to be considered enemies and targets once again by Taliban forces.

The Afghan goverment collapsed in a matter of weeks before the fall of Kabul, ending with the former president, Ashraf Ghani, fleeing the country by plane.

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