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McCaul calls on the State Department to release Afghanistan withdrawal report

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken to release the report detailing the 2021 withdrawal to the public.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, at the Capitol on April 28, 2022.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, says the administration's report on the Afghanistan withdrawal should be released.Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call via AP file

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is demanding that the State Department declassify and publicly release an 87-page review of the Biden administration's chaotic 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, called on Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a letter Tuesday to release an unclassified version of the complete document within 60 days.

The administration provided the report to the Foreign Affairs Committee on April 6, the same day that the White House publicly released a brief summary, he added.

"Despite having been completed for over a year, this document has yet to be shared with the American people," wrote McCaul of the full report. "The Department only provided this document to Congress in response to the Committee’s imminent threat of a subpoena."

McCaul accused the White House of not presenting an accurate overview of the report to the public when it released the summary of the review this month.

The review "directly contradicts the White House’s recent written and oral public statements," wrote McCaul, who said that the document specifically contradicts comments made by National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.

McCaul said that while Kirby's statements and the 12-page public summary largely blamed the failures of the withdrawal on the Trump administration, the unclassified review offers a different picture.

The chairman then quoted from several parts of that unclassified version in the letter to Blinken, saying that the review claimed "[t]he decisions of both President Trump and President Biden to end the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan had serious consequences for the viability of the Afghan government and its security."

The report also states that the review team "found during both administrations there was insufficient senior-level consideration of worst case scenarios and how quickly these might follow," he wrote.

The unclassified report said some officials "questioned how and whether the Department could sufficiently mitigate the loss of military support, and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security warned of the level of risk that the Department would be accepting," according to McCaul's letter.

It also said that constantly "changing policy guidance and public messaging from Washington regarding which populations were eligible for relocation and how the embassy should manage outreach and flow added to the confusion and often failed to take into account key facts on the ground,” he wrote.

McCaul, who called into question why the report contained various redactions, also asked that Blinken provide files the review team used to prepare the report by May 5.

"Upon review of the document, there does not appear to be any reason an appropriate version could not be made available for public release," McCaul said. "The Biden Administration’s pattern of obfuscation and obstruction towards oversight of the withdrawal is unacceptable and will not be tolerated."

A department spokesperson, Vedant Patel, addressed McCaul’s request at a State Department briefing Tuesday and said there were no plans to release an unclassified version of the report to the public "at the moment,” adding that the administration had already communicated the report to Congress.

“We continue to be deeply engaged with Congress as it relates to legitimate oversight functions on Afghanistan,” he said.