McCaul threatens to ‘put a hold’ on Afghanistan funding

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said on Sunday he will put a hold on funding to Afghanistan unless he gets assurances the money is not going to the Taliban.

In an interview with Fox News Sunday, McCaul was asked by anchor Shannon Bream what he tells American taxpayers about their dollars flowing to the Taliban, as per a report to this effect last week by Special Inspector General on Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

McCaul said in response: “I’m prepared in my position to put a hold on this funding until we get assurances it is not going right into the hands of the Taliban.”

He added: “They are repressing women. They can’t go out of their homes. They can’t get educated. Women can’t be hired by these NGOs, these charitable organizations in Afghanistan, and we are paying the money. The US taxpayers are funding this. We need some assurance that this is going to go to the right hands and it’s going to help the women in Afghanistan. If the Taliban can’t assure us of that, I think we need to be prepared to cut that funding off as a stick rather than giving them just a carrot.”

On the chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan two years ago, and the August 26, 2021 suicide bombing outside the Kabul airport gates – which killed 13 US service members and over 170 Afghanistan nationals, McCaul said he “will not rest until we get answers and accountability and transparency as to what happened.”

He brought up testimony heard a few months back in Congress that US serviceman Tyler Vargas-Andrews had at the time had the suicide bomber in his sights, but was not given “permission to engage him.” McCaul added, “after that, the bomb went off killing 170 people, 13 servicemen and women.”

McCaul said the US intelligence had ISIS-K (Daesh) in their sights, knowing they were plotting to take out Abbey Gate [at Kabul airport] on the very same day that it was taken down when the suicide bomber went off. He also stated that the US “intelligence requested an airstrike. Guess what, that airstrike was denied, was denied to go in and take out the very forces that then killed our 13 servicemen and women. This story gets worse by the day. And I will not rest until we get to the bottom of it.”

He implied that the people who should be held accountable are the top brass including retired Marine Corps general Kenneth McKenzie who was commander of the United States Central Command at the time of the withdrawal along with Lieutenant General Chris Donahue who was “the general on the ground” at the time. McCaul also said General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff along with Secretary of State Antony Blinken were decision makers.

“We’ve been denied access to these witnesses. And we’re prepared to go forward with subpoenas to get to the bottom, because these Gold Star families that you just showed deserve the truth as to what happened to make sure this never happens again.

“But this was not a clean operation, this was not a successful evacuation by any stretch of the imagination. And the Taliban was put in charge. And in my judgment, that was the worst mistake of all, was to put them in charge and not our US military to evacuate US citizens and our partners that fought so bravely with us,” he said.

McCaul’s comments come just days after he ordered the US State Department to comply with his subpoena for documents relating to the chaotic withdrawal of troops in 2021 and asked for two top State Department officials to appear before the committee for a transcribed interview.

In a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday, McCaul said: “The paucity of documents produced to date by the department is unreasonable and unacceptable.”

“The department’s anemic subpoena response suggests that it is either deliberately obstructing the committee’s oversight, or that its document retention, location, and production procedures are astoundingly deficient. Neither is acceptable,” he also wrote.

This comes after McCaul subpoenaed Blinken last month to hand over the Afghanistan After-Action Review files to the committee by July 25. As of Thursday, August 10, the department had only turned over 16 documents.

McCaul told Blinken the State Department has “a legal obligation to produce the subpoenaed documents in a timely manner without further delay, and I intend to hold the department accountable.”