IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Republican issues subpoena for diplomatic cable warning of Kabul's 2021 collapse

The House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman wants a cable written by 23 State Department officials working in Kabul who warned about the Afghan capital collapsed a month before U.S. troops withdrew.
Michael McCaul during a press conference in the U.S. Capitol
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, at a news conference in the U.S. Capitol on Aug. 31, 2021.Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images - file

WASHINGTON — House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, has issued a subpoena to the State Department to obtain a July 2021 cable from U.S. diplomats that warned of Kabul's potential collapse.

The subpoena, which McCaul sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday, calls for the dissent cable that was written by nearly two dozen State Department officials working in the Kabul embassy at the time, as well as Blinken's response.

The subpoena requests the documents by April 4, a committee spokesperson said.

McCaul cited a 2021 report by The Wall Street Journal that said the cable warned that the Biden administration was not properly prepared for a full U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was completed by the end of that August.

Providing the cable to Congress may have “a chilling effect on the willingness of others to come forward in the future to express dissenting views,” Blinken said in testimony last week. He instead offered a classified briefing on the substance of the cable.

The Foreign Affairs Committee said Monday that the cable and Blinken's response are "key documents because they reveal exactly what first-hand information the State Department’s own employees who were on the ground provided to Secretary Blinken about a month prior to evacuation."

Before McCaul ultimately decided on the subpoena, he offered to review the document in a secure location, rather than have it physically delivered to the committee. He also offered to redact the names of the signers to protect their privacy, the committee said.

The State Department, however, declined to provide the confidential cable, which McCaul said in a statement Monday forced him to issue the subpoena.

"The American people deserve answers as to how this tragedy unfolded, and why 13 U.S. service members lost their lives. We expect the State Department to follow the law and comply with this subpoena in good faith," he said.

McCaul was referring to the 13 U.S. service members who were killed in an attack in August 2021 by the Islamic State terrorist group outside Kabul's airport, where Americans and allies were being evacuated from Afghanistan.

Principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said in a statement that the State Department followed up with the committee to reiterate its willingness to provide a briefing about the concerns raised by the diplomats in Afghanistan.

"The Department remains committed to providing the Committee with the information it needs to conduct its oversight function, and has already provided thousands of pages of documents responsive to the Committee’s request," Patel said.

The committee originally requested the confidential cable in August 2021 under the leadership of Democratic then-Chairman Gregory Meeks of New York.

Meeks, who is now the ranking member on the committee, said in a statement Tuesday that he has long hoped for an "accommodation" between the State Department and the committee for the information.

"I am disappointed that such a compromise has not been reached, despite Secretary Blinken expressing a willingness to provide a briefing on the substance of that information without jeopardizing the privacy of the dissent channel," he said.