Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) led 64 of his Republican colleagues in sending a letter to Defense Secretary Llyod Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken today on the first anniversary of the Biden Administration’s disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal. Mullin questions the administration’s mismanagement on every level of the withdrawal of troops and personnel from Afghanistan, including the fall of Kabul, and demands accountability and oversight for this abject failure.
“The absolute failure of the Afghanistan withdrawal carries no less pain today than it did twelve months ago,” Mullin said. “There must be accountability for the complete and total failure on the part of Joe Biden and those who were advising him. We owe it to our fellow Americans, to our allies in Afghanistan, and to the loved ones of the thirteen service members who lost their lives at the Kabul airport to get answers from this administration.”
“One motto of our military is ‘leave no man behind,’” Mullin continued. “A year ago today, that is exactly what Joe Biden, Secretary Austin, and Secretary Blinken did. They said every American that wanted out could get out. We know this is not true. The team I was blessed to be a part of that helped rescue Americans left behind by the Biden Administration knows this firsthand. Biden’s administration not only left Americans, but they left billions of dollars worth of military equipment behind, emboldening the very enemies we have spent the last two decades fighting. Finally, they lost America’s credibility with our partners and allies as the world watched this horrific tragedy unfold. The blood remains squarely on their hands.”
Reps. Madison Cawthorn (NC-11), Steve Palazzo (MS-04), Victoria Spartz (IN-05), Diana Harshbarger (TN-01), Warren Davidson (OH-08), Louie Gohmert (TX-01), Tim Walberg (MI-07), Michael Burgess (TX-26), Pat Fallon (TX-04), Ben Cline (VA-06), Greg Steube (FL-17), Mary Miller (IL-15), Kat Cammack (FL-03), Bob Gibbs (OH-07), Jeff Van Drew (NJ-02), Nancy Mace (SC-01), Fred Keller (PA-12), Mike Bost (IL-12), Tom Tiffany (WI-07), Carlos Gimenez (FL-26), Ted Budd (NC-13), Michael Guest (MS-03), Tracey Mann (KS-01), Roger Williams (TX-25), Virginia Foxx (NC-05), John Carter (TX-31), Debbie Lesko (AZ-08), Michael Waltz (FL-06), Greg Murphy (NC-03), Byron Donalds (FL-19), Ralph Norman (SC-05), Jim Banks (IN-03), Brian Mast (FL-18), Austin Scott (GA-08), Richard Hudson (NC-08), Drew Ferguson (GA-03), David McKinley (WV-01), Lance Gooden (TX-05), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02), Bob Good (VA-05), Bruce Westerman (AR-04), Gus Bilirakis (FL-12), William Timmons (SC-04), Vern Buchanan (FL-16), Joe Wilson (SC-02), Cliff Bentz (OR-02), Randy Feenstra (IA-04), Jim Baird (IN-04), John Rose (TN-06), Buddy Carter (GA-01), Guy Reschenthaler (PA-14), Neal Dunn (FL-02), Doug LaMalfa (CA-01), Mike Kelly (PA-16), Mike Carey (OH-15), Ronny Jackson (TX-13), Mario Díaz-Balart (FL-25), Randy Weber (TX-14), Jack Bergman (MI-01), Pete Stauber (MN-08), Tom Emmer (MN-06), Doug Lamborn (CO-05), and Elise Stefanik (NY-21) joined Mullin on this letter.
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The full text of the letter can be found here and below.
Dear Secretary Austin and Secretary Blinken:
On the first anniversary of the disastrous withdrawal of American troops, equipment, and personnel from Afghanistan, we write with regard to the many unanswered questions that still surround this unnecessary loss of life, including 13 members of the military and Americans left behind. There must be more transparency and significant oversight to ensure that disasters on this scale will be prevented moving forward. We must also ensure that those in charge are held accountable for their actions that led to this catastrophe.
On August 15, 2021, Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, fell to the Taliban following the near-total withdrawal of American troops. Kabul was America’s last stronghold in the country and the evacuation point for many seeking to leave. The United States concluded its military engagement in Afghanistan on August 30, 2021, although Members of Congress had been personally informed by Commander McKenzie’s Chief of Staff that the withdrawal date would be August 31. Unfortunately, those in charge’s failure to plan for this fateful day resulted in a rushed evacuation, leaving hundreds of American citizens behind, with their fate subject to the repressive whims of Taliban rule.
The fall of Kabul represents a complete and utter failure of leadership by those in charge. For weeks our government told American citizens in the country and our Afghani allies, including interpreters who served as a lifeline to our military, that they could come to the United States on Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs), or go to Kabul where they would be safe and evacuated, only to be abandoned by this administration. You also armed our enemies with $7 billion worth of equipment that was left behind. The American exit did not have to be this way, and there must be accountability for this failure.
This tragic evacuation tarnished America’s credibility with our partners and allies. We are committed to holding those in charge accountable for their failure of duty that allowed for a quick Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and a botched withdrawal that left hundreds of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghan partners behind.
With that said, we require the following questions answered in writing:
- At the time of the withdrawal, Congress received conflicting answers regarding the number of Americans reported missing or remaining in Afghanistan after the withdrawal. Secretary Austin, in your appearance before Congress you claimed that no department in the Administration actually knew this number. Has every American reported missing or remaining in Afghanistan after the withdrawal been accounted for as of now?
- We have received reports of Afghan interpreters who have applied for a SIV receiving no information or assistance in trying to exit Afghanistan since last year. What efforts have been made to facilitate SIV applicants’ ability to leave Afghanistan?
- Many Americans and SIVs have had to cross unfriendly borders to make it out of the country. Have efforts been made to partner with neighboring countries to assist in further evacuations or provide greater accuracy in accounting for the number of Americans left on the ground?
- In early July 2021, internal State Department cables called on those in charge to begin collecting data on Afghan refugees and preparing to begin emergency evacuation flights no later than August 1. Why were these cables ignored?
- Why did the documented increase in Taliban violence throughout 2020 and 2021 fail to prompt concern within the administration?
- Was the failure by those in charge to conduct worst-case contingency planning in the months leading up to the U.S. military withdrawal the result of inaction or deliberate decisions taken by senior leadership under your command?
- Why did you permit the covert handover of Bagram Air Base to Afghan security forces in July 2021, with reportedly no advanced notice to local partners?
- Why was the withdrawal date moved forward by 24 hours after briefing Members of Congress that the withdrawal would take place on the 31st and that all equipment would be removed or destroyed?
- Pentagon reports detail that more than $7 billion of U.S. military equipment was left in the hands of Taliban forces following the last U.S. troop evacuation of Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 30, 2021. With that said, is the equipment left behind fully operational for Taliban forces?
- Is there advanced equipment among what was left in Afghanistan featuring proprietary information that Taliban forces could access and share with other hostile states and affiliated entities?
- Pentagon reports state, in August 2021, much of the equipment the U.S. left behind was destroyed or demilitarized. Are there any updates you can provide to verify these earlier reports, and has there been any further monitoring of the equipment that was left since the withdrawal from Afghanistan?
- Before the evacuation, were there any appropriate contingency plans to prepare for the possibility of preventing military equipment from being left in Afghanistan?
- Have direct revisions in execution been implemented to prevent a similar loss of military equipment in the future?
Along with these questions, given the significant taxpayer investments in Afghanistan and its critical national security mission, Members of Congress should have the opportunity to directly question those in charge of the withdrawal to understand why there continue to be inadequate responses surrounding the Afghanistan withdrawal.
Your mismanagement on every level of the withdrawal of American troops and personnel from Afghanistan deserves serious and diligent oversight. We await your responses.