State Department Agrees to Partially Disclose Classified Information on Afghanistan Withdrawal
The State Department has agreed to give members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee partial access to classified information about the botched Afghanistan withdrawal. This comes after the committee’s investigation was stonewalled for over a year. The State Department has offered to allow the committee’s members to review a dissent cable, which is believed to show that Biden administration officials knew the Taliban would quickly reassume control of the country once American forces departed.
What’s the Catch?
The State Department has said that it is willing to partially disclose the document if committee chairman Michael McCaul (R., Texas) suspends his bid to hold Secretary of State Antony Blinken in contempt of Congress for obstruction. McCaul signaled on Monday that he is moving forward with criminal charges against Blinken, who would be the first ever secretary of state to be held in contempt of Congress.
McCaul and other lawmakers seeking to review the dissent cable must agree to read the document “in camera” and with State Department supervision. McCaul has said he will view the document and temporarily “pause efforts to enforce the committee’s subpoena pending my review of the documents.” However, he emphasized that “the subpoena remains in full force and effect, and the acceptance of this accommodation does not waive any of the committee’s rights regarding a subpoena,” suggesting that Blinken could still be held in contempt of Congress. McCaul also demanded the State Department permit all lawmakers, including those outside of the committee, to view the classified document.
Why is This Important?
The dissent cable is critical to McCaul’s investigation into the botched 2021 evacuation from Kabul that left 13 Americans dead. The State Department maintains that its latest concession is an “extraordinary accommodation” and affirms its compliance with Congress’s ongoing investigation into the Afghanistan debacle. However, the Biden administration remains concerned that unveiling the names of those who authored the dissent memo would “create a serious risk of chilling both future use of, and future candor in, the Dissent Channel cables.”
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