The National Desk: GOP investigates Afghanistan withdrawal; still 'very raw, open wound' for vets
This article originally appeared on the National Desk.
(TND) — The U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is getting new scrutiny in the Republican-controlled House.
The new chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, seeking information and a long list of documents related to the August 2021 withdrawal.
“It is absurd and disgraceful that the Biden administration has repeatedly denied our longstanding oversight requests and continues to withhold information related to the withdrawal,” the committee chair, Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, said in a news release. “In the event of continued noncompliance, the Committee will use the authorities available to it to enforce these requests as necessary, including through a compulsory process. As Chairman, I take this obligation very seriously and will pursue this investigation until all our questions are answered and all parties responsible are held accountable. We owe this to the American people, especially our service members and veterans.”
Cole Lyle, a former Marine and the executive director of veterans’ advocacy group Mission Roll Call, said he applauds the effort.
“I think we still need some transparency and accountability with regards to the lead-up to the withdrawal, the withdrawal itself, and then how the interagency has handled the ... evacuation and reintegration (for Afghans) back into the United States.”
He admitted he’s skeptical about what level of accountability can come to fruition at this point while also calling for more government willpower to help the people of Afghanistan.
Lyle, who did a tour of duty in 2011 in Afghanistan, said we owe it to the Afghans who put their lives on the line for U.S. troops.
Those left behind must now endure Taliban rule.
Recent Gallup surveys show Afghans are suffering in all facets of life, with no hope for the future.
And U.S. leadership has wide disapproval among the Afghan people.
“The United States and many other countries came in, they occupied that country for 20 years, at one point in time we did have some positive data, and then things just kind of really bottomed out over the last couple of years,” Jay Loschky, Gallup’s senior regional director for Middle East & North Africa World Poll, said last month. “Now the Taliban’s back in power, and there’s the feeling that nothing’s going to get better.”
The situation has also left U.S. military members and veterans with a "moral injury," said Lyle.
His group, Mission Roll Call, posted a pair of polls over the summer in conjunction with the anniversary of the withdrawal.
Sixty-six percent of respondents said the withdrawal from Afghanistan negatively impacted the way they view America's legacy in the Global War on Terror, and 84% said they are dissatisfied with the level of accountability for senior officials in their handling of the withdrawal.
Mission Roll Call also did an outreach tour last year and spoke to thousands of veterans, and Lyle said they often expressed anger about seeing how “all the gains that we made in Afghanistan over a 20-year period were erased in a matter of weeks.”
“When you bring the withdrawal from Afghanistan up, you get still a very visceral response, anger, astonishment. It still is and will continue to be a very raw, open wound in the veteran community for the foreseeable future,” he said.
There is also a political component to this renewed push to investigate the troop withdrawal.
Todd Belt, a professor of political management at The George Washington University, said Republicans, now the majority in the House, are making good on their promise to investigate President Joe Biden and his administration.
Republicans are hoping investigations like this will put Biden on his heels heading into the next election.
“In spite of the withdrawal, the Biden administration ended last year on a very high note, obviously with the midterm election results and a number of policies that got passed both through Congress and executive order,” Belt said. “And you saw a rebound in Joe Biden's public approval. And so, they're trying to take him down or notch, as one does in politics, and this is part of what they're going to be doing.”
Belt said he thinks the State Department will comply with the House committee’s request for documents, though maybe not by the committee’s Jan. 26 deadline.
“I think one of the things that Biden and the people who worked for him have wanted to underscore his we are getting back to governance as usual, and that means oversight is a part of governance,” Belt said. “And whether they like it or not, or whether they think it's politically motivated or not, doing the job of the people means being responsive to the people's representatives in Congress.”