Top Republicans on key House panels press Biden administration on chaotic withdrawal

Ranking Republicans on three key House panels are demanding answers from the White House amid the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

In a letter sent to the White House late Monday, Reps Michael T. McCaul of Texas, Devin Nunes of California, and Mike Rogers of Alabama, the top Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Armed Services committees said the “disaster that is now unfolding” in Afghanistan was avoidable.

“For months, your Administration ignored assessments and dire warnings by your military and intelligence community, ignored repeated Congressional requests for details regarding contingency planning, ignored calls by Afghan partners and women for help, and ignored urgent calls by U.S. veterans to slow the withdrawal and get our interpreters out,” the lawmakers wrote.

Republicans on Capitol Hill have been critical of Mr. Biden’s decision to fully drawdown from Afghanistan, saying his administration set an arbitrary, unrealistic timeline for the withdrawal which they said would spell disaster for the democratically elected Afghan government. Lawmakers were also critical of the administration’s lack of a plan for ensuring stability on the ground and evacuating Afghan allies who supported the U.S.-led war effort.

“Your arbitrary decision to require the removal of all U.S. troops by September 11th left Department of Defense leaders scrambling to ensure a safe and orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops, civilians, and allies,” the lawmakers wrote. “Specifically, your decisions to abandon Bagram Air Base early and leave only a few hundred troops at Hamid Karzai International Airport opened the door to the Taliban’s rapid takeover and endangered the lives of Americans and our allies still in Afghanistan.”

On Sunday, the world watched chaotic scenes play out in Kabul. Met with little resistance, the Taliban seized the city and overtook the Presidential Palace after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country amid the turmoil.

Afghan citizens scrambled to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul in a last-minute attempt to escape the Taliban’s rule. Flights were temporarily grounded amid the chaos, further complicating the efforts to evacuate U.S. civilians and Afghan evacuees.

Going forward, the lawmakers worry that the Taliban’s takeover will soon usher a reemerging transnational terrorist threat from known groups in the region including al Qaeda which many say receive safe haven under Taliban rule.

The congressmen addressed specific questions to Mr. Biden in the letter, including what diplomatic footprint the administration intends to leave in Afghanistan going forward, how the military will confront terrorist groups emanating from the region, and how the administration will repair the U.S.’s “diminished International standing” after the tumultuous drawdown.

“The direness of the situation cannot be overstated, and there is no obfuscating press statement, briefing, or address that can hide where responsibility lies,” the lawmakers said.

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