McCaul says troop withdrawal from Afghanistan was a ‘stunning failure of leadership’

Photo: Reuters.

The US House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said Wednesday night that the chaotic withdrawal of US troops and evacuation of Americans from Afghanistan was a systemic breakdown of the federal government at every level, “and a stunning, stunning failure of leadership by the Biden administration.”

In his opening remarks at the full committee hearing on Washington’s disastrous emergency evacuation from Afghanistan in August 2021, McCaul said the US now knows it left more than 1,000 American citizens behind, and almost 200,000 Afghan partners and allies that Washington promised to save. 

“We promised them we would help them – only to abandon them to the Taliban,” he said adding that “not to mention the women who were left behind to the mercy of the Taliban under Sharia Law.”

McCaul said: “This was an abdication of the most basic duties of the U.S. government: To protect Americans and leave no one behind.”

He pointed out that in the spring of 2021, against the advice of his top generals and the intelligence community, US President Joe Biden announced he would unconditionally withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan. This came despite multiple briefings by various US agencies that suggested otherwise. 

He said the briefings by the Department of Defense and Intelligence Communities had been particularly “grim”, yet the White House consistently “painted a rosy picture, ignoring the realities on the ground.”

He stated that the Biden Administration claimed to have planned for every contingency, but that they had not done so and that when the Taliban entered Kabul on August 15, “we simply weren’t ready.”

McCaul, called out the Biden administration and said because of their “dereliction of duty, the world watched heartbreaking scenes unfold in and around the Kabul airport for the next two weeks.”

He described the scenes of thousands of people at Kabul airport desperately trying to make it through airport gates; people clinging to planes as they took off; mothers handing their children to strangers over the airport walls – willingly giving them up in the hopes of saving their lives.

Then on August 26 a suicide bomber killed about 170 Afghans and 13 US servicemembers. 

Attending the hearing on Wednesday were two US servicemen who survived the explosion – Marine Sergeant Tyler Vargas-Andrews and former Army Specialist Aidan Gunderson. Both were expected to give a first-hand account of what it was like inside the Kabul airport during those two weeks.

McCaul meanwhile said that in the midst of the unfolding chaos in Kabul in August 2021, the US State Department was all but useless.

“What happened in Afghanistan was a systemic breakdown of the federal government at every level – and a stunning, stunning failure of leadership by the Biden administration.“I will not rest, and this committee will not rest until we determine how this happened – and hold those responsible for it accountable,” he said.