Republicans are charging the Biden administration with using age-old tactics to suppress the recent release of a report on the botched Afghanistan withdrawal. The administration made the document public the day before the Fourth of July holiday, leading many to believe this timing was strategic and designed to decrease its visibility.
The State Department report was already under scrutiny for being incomplete. Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) of the House Foreign Affairs Committee highlighted the absence of a significant portion of the document, as the version released to the public only included 24 pages out of the original 87. This omission, McCaul alleges, represents “another blatant attempt to hide the Biden administration’s culpability in the chaotic and deadly evacuation from Afghanistan.”
The timing and content of the report’s release were not the only points of contention. When questioned about the document, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre sidestepped direct responsibility and referred queries to the State Department. When probed about the timing, Jean-Pierre responded, “That is a State Department decision, so I would have to refer you to them.”
The long-awaited report offers a damning assessment of the 2021 Afghanistan withdrawal, blaming both the Trump and Biden administrations for the calamitous exit. However, it doesn’t absolve the current administration from its role in the debacle. The report found a lack of transparent decision-making regarding evacuation plans, stating, “Senior administration officials had not made clear decisions regarding the universe of at-risk Afghans who would be included by the time the operation started nor had they determined where those Afghans would be taken.”
While the report was keen to share responsibility for the blunders, it was also noted that “the State Department did not have a sufficient sense of urgency” in planning for an evacuation. It’s an assertion that fuels the Republican argument that the Biden administration mishandled the situation.
However, the criticism isn’t limited to the evacuation process alone. The report states that there was no clear point of contact within the State Department for non-combatant evacuation operations (NEO), revealing significant coordination issues.
In response to the report, a senior State Department official mentioned the lessons learned from the Afghanistan ordeal have been applied to manage subsequent crises, such as the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. Yet, with an incomplete report released on the eve of a national holiday, Republicans are left questioning the administration’s commitment to accountability and transparency.
The blame for the State Department’s failure to prepare for an evacuation lies solely with the Biden Administration and their bullshit deadline of September 11, 2021 rather than adjusting to conditions on the ground.
— Rep. Mike Waltz (@michaelgwaltz) July 1, 2023
Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL), a House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee member, criticized the release, calling it a “typical DC swamp tactic.” He dismissed the report’s shared blame with the Trump administration and called for more accountability from the Biden administration.
Waltz’s perspective reflects a broader Republican sentiment that the responsibility for the disastrous withdrawal lies primarily with the current administration. With many questions unanswered and more than half of the report missing, the argument is far from settled. As Waltz tweeted, “We will keep investigating and demand accountability.”