McCaul gives Blinken Monday deadline to hand over Afghanistan withdrawal documents

The US House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul on Thursday faced Secretary of State Antony Blinken and threatened to serve him with a subpoena unless the documents and information on the Afghanistan troop withdrawal are produced within the next four days.

Waving the subpoena in the air, McCaul said to Blinken, who was testifying to the committee on the department’s budget and diplomacy: “I have the subpoena. It’s right here. And I’m prepared to serve this.”

He gave the secretary of state a deadline of “by close of business Monday” to produce the documents.

Earlier this year, McCaul launched an investigation into the chaotic troop withdrawal in August 2021 and has since made numerous requests for information and documents on the withdrawal and evacuation.

This week, McCaul sent a letter to Blinken requesting information before Thursday. Blinken however said at Thursday’s hearing that his department is working to provide as much information as possible.

“I want to make clear that we are working to provide all the information that this committee is looking for and that its oversight responsibilities give it the authority to secure,” said Blinken, adding that his department had handed over an embassy action plan amounting to thousands of pages and would be sharing the substance of an after-action review conducted on the withdrawal in the next three weeks.

But Blinken said some specific information could only be shared with senior officials, a move intended to protect the identity of those expressing dissent.

“It is vital to me that we preserve the integrity of that (dissent) process and of that channel, that we not take any steps that could have a chilling effect on the willingness of others to come forward in the future to express dissenting views on the policies that are being pursued,” he said.

Specifically, McCaul has requested information from Blinken regarding a “Dissent Channel cable reportedly sent on July 13, 2021, by 23 State Department officials and the Department’s response to it,” as well as an after-action report and two versions of U.S. Embassy Kabul’s Emergency Action Plan (EAP) prior to the embassy’s closure.

Several Americans in Taliban custody

Blinken also told the committee that “several Americans are being detained by the Taliban” and said Washington is working to “secure their freedom”. He said however that the families of the detained Americans have asked for their identities to be protected.

He did not provide details on how many Americans this involved nor did he provide details on the reasons for the detentions.

He did however tell the committee that “American citizens who identified themselves to us who are in Afghanistan — some of whom have been there since the withdrawal, some of whom went back to Afghanistan — there are about, that we’re in contact with, about 175. Forty-four of them are ready to leave, and we are working to effectuate their departure.”

Blinken’s comments Thursday come as Republicans continue to push for accountability from the Biden administration over its disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, which resulted in the deaths of 13 U.S. service members and about 170 Afghan people who were killed in a suicide bombing outside the Kabul airport.