By Micah Morrison
Hearings into President Biden’s disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal got underway last week on Capitol Hill. Like many Americans, here at Judicial Watch we were shocked and outraged by the Kabul debacle—the collapse of U.S. foreign policy, the chaotic airfield scenes, the suicide bombing that killed thirteen American military personnel and scores of others, the bungled U.S. drone strike that took down no ISIS enemy but managed to wipe out ten members of an American-friendly Afghan family, including seven children.
For Judicial Watch, there also was an eerie sense of déjà vu. We’ve been here before. In 2012, Islamic militants attacked U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, killing U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. It happened on President Obama’s watch, with Hillary Clinton leading the State Department. For President Biden, the Kabul disaster is Benghazi writ large.
Like Benghazi, the Biden team outsourced security to local actors with terrorist ties. In Libya, it was the February 17th Martyrs Brigade, a militia that melted away when another militant group, Ansar al-Sharia, moved on the American diplomatic compound and nearby CIA base. In Afghanistan, it was the Taliban itself that took control of the area around Kabul airfield, along with the entire country.
Like Benghazi, the collapse of the Kabul central government is turning the country into a way station for terrorists. U.S. intelligence officials have noted that Al Qaeda could quickly regroup in Afghanistan. In “one to two years” Al Qaeda could “build some capability to at least threaten the homeland,” the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency said last week. The Taliban named their close ally, Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the Haqqani terrorist network, to the powerful post on interior minister in the new government. Haqqani is on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. His supporters last week got in a gunfight at the presidential palace with non-Taliban Afghans seeking a role in the new government.
And like Benghazi, an influential voice from that earlier crisis is back. In the Obama Administration Jake Sullivan was Mrs. Clinton’s deputy chief of staff and a key adviser. Sullivan enthusiastically promoted Mrs. Clinton’s “leadership/ownership/stewardship of this country’s Libya policy from start to finish,” as he put it in a 2011 email to State Department colleagues. Sullivan is now national security adviser to the president and a leading administration voice on Afghan policy.
In Congress, four key committees are promising to look into the Afghan failure. But in the modern administrative state, a culture of secrecy dominates both political parties. In the Benghazi affair, Judicial Watch fought that secrecy with Freedom of Information Act requests backed up by lawsuits. And we often won. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton noted in Capitol Hill testimony that we “frequently succeeded in prying loose documents that had been denied even to Congress.”
In the Benghazi affair, for example, Judicial Watch uncovered emails showing then-White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Ben Rhodes and other Obama administration officials putting out the lie that the Benghazi attack was “rooted in an Internet video, and not a failure of policy.”
The documents had been withheld from congressional committees. But as a direct result of our disclosure, then-Speaker John Boehner reversed his opposition to convening a Select Committee on Benghazi. And even with a select committee probe, Judicial Watch continued to be the go-to source on Benghazi facts, as we continued through the courts to uncover revelation after revelation about the Benghazi attack and the Obama administration’s efforts to cover up the details.
The Benghazi revelations did not come easy, and we don’t expect that the truth about Afghanistan will come easy either. We’ve issued numerous FOIA requests related to Kabul airfield and the Afghan endgame. But in Washington, both parties have been deeply invested in the Afghan war for two decades—the drive to sweep the whole mess under the rug will be strong.
Read JW President Tom Fitton’s testimony before the House Oversight Committee on Benghazi and “Legislative Proposals for Fostering Transparency” here.
Micah Morrison is chief investigative reporter for Judicial Watch. Follow him on Twitter @micah_morrison. Tips: [email protected]