House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) Chairman Michael McCaul has secured an agreement with Secretary of State Antony Blinken that will allow all committee members to view the July 2021 dissent channel cable out of Afghanistan and the State Department’s response.
This is the first time in US history that a dissent channel cable has been provided to Congress.
“This is an unprecedented step forward in our committee’s investigation into the Afghanistan withdrawal,” stated McCaul.
“For the first time in history, the State Department has agreed to allow Congress to view a dissent channel cable. This cable contains first-hand information from Embassy Kabul employees who were on the ground prior to the collapse as well as Secretary Blinken’s response to their concerns. I want to thank Secretary Blinken for negotiating with me in good faith on this.”
According to a statement issued by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the members will be given a reasonable opportunity to view the dissent channel cable and the response. This in turn would be a satisfactory accommodation to the subpoena and would take contempt off the table, McCaul said.
McCaul has for months fought for access to the July 2021 dissent cable that warned the Biden administration about the risks of withdrawing from Afghanistan.
In May, McCaul said he would move forward with a hearing to hold Blinken in contempt after his initial refusal to comply with a congressional subpoena for the dissent cable as well as the US response to concerns from diplomats.
After initially only offering the committee a one-page summary of the dissent cable and classified briefings on the matter, last month the State Department allowed McCaul and committee ranking member Gregory Meeks the chance to view the cable “in camera”.
State Department spokesman Vedant Patel explained to reporters last month that the department was wary of giving lawmakers access to the material because the dissent channel cable is “something that is really integral and sacred” to the State Department.
“It is an avenue for personnel across the world to engage with the senior leadership on very important issues and for senior leadership to engage back,” he said. “It’s not an avenue to inform or convey policy to Congress. And we wanted to ensure that we are taking steps to respect and protect the integrity of that channel.”
Republicans on the committee have been investigating the circumstances surrounding the disastrous August 2021 US pullout from Afghanistan that resulted in the Taliban swiftly taking over the country.
Thirteen US service members were killed by an ISIS suicide bomber during the chaotic evacuation from Kabul.
Hundreds of US citizens were also left stranded in Afghanistan after the last evacuation flight departed on Aug. 30, 2021.
After viewing the dissent cable on May 23, McCaul said it was “essential that every one of the Committee’s Members — Democrat and Republican — have the same opportunity that Ranking Member Meeks and I did” to review the dissent cable.
McCaul noted that the cable “significantly enhanced my understanding of the deteriorating conditions on the ground in Afghanistan and the direness of the dissenting officials’ warnings to the Department’s leadership.”