WASHINGTON, March 28, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - The new Republican-led House of Representatives on Monday ordered the State Department to hand over a dissent cable by diplomats which warned of risks as US troops withdrew from Afghanistan.
Representative Mike McCaul, who leads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was sending a subpoena to make good on a threat he made Thursday at a hearing to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who had offered a compromise of a briefing about the memorandum.
The internal cable, sent through a longstanding channel for dissent as President Joe Biden ended America's longest war, was widely reported to have voiced concern -- presciently -- that the Western-backed government would quickly collapse as US troops left.
"We have made multiple good-faith attempts to find common ground so we could see this critical piece of information," McCaul said.
As troops rushed to evacuate Afghan allies, a bombing outside the Kabul airport on August 26, 2021 killed 13 US troops and some 170 Afghan civilians. The Islamic State-Khorasan group claimed responsibility.
"The American people deserve answers as to how this tragedy unfolded, and why 13 US servicemembers lost their lives," McCaul said.
Blinken told the committee that the State Department would cooperate but that he wanted to preserve "the integrity of the process" and make sure that diplomats in the future are free to express dissent internally.
The State Department "followed up with the committee to reiterate its willingness to provide a briefing about the concerns raised and the challenges identified by Embassy Kabul, including in the dissent channel," department spokesman Vedant Patel said.
"The committee chose instead to issue a subpoena," he said.
"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."
It remains unclear what the committee would do if the State Department refuses to deliver the full document and if it would seek court action to enforce the subpoena.
Then president Donald Trump's administration reached a deal with Taliban leaders that involved the withdrawal of all US forces.
Biden delayed implementation by several months but went ahead, saying the United States had no vital interest in maintaining forces in Afghanistan.
The Taliban swiftly took over Kabul, restoring an Islamist state toppled by a US-led coalition after the September 11, 2001 attacks.