Top Democrats are vowing to hold hearings on the botched withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan that led to a Taliban takeover of the country, with some of President Biden’s most vocal allies calling for answers on the administration’s lack of preparation for the exit.
Members on both sides of the aisle have been critical of Biden’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan, with critics arguing it has weakened the United States’ standing on the world stage, alienated allies and put the country at greater risk of an attack on the homeland.
While the Biden Administration and a number of Democratic lawmakers have tried to shift blame for the chaos that has ensued, multiple senior lawmakers have demanded answers from the current administration on the failed strategy.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that the panel will seek answers on the “Trump administration’s flawed negotiations with Taliban, and the Biden administration’s flawed execution of the U.S. withdrawal,” offering one of the most strongly-worded Democratic rebukes of Biden’s foreign policy decision.
“The Committee will seek a full accounting for these shortcomings as well as assess why the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces collapsed so quickly. Congress was told repeatedly that the Afghan Defense and Security Forces were up to the task, that it had the troops, equipment and willingness to fight,” he said in a statement.
“To see this army dissolve so quickly after billions of dollars in U.S. support is astounding. The American and Afghan people clearly have not been told the truth about the ANDSF’s capacity and deserve answers. Finally, the Committee will examine the path forward, focused on the international response to the looming humanitarian and human rights catastrophe under a Taliban-led regime.”
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) said his committee will seek answers on the lack of a contingency plan and failure to heed the advice received from the intelligence community on the projected fall to the Taliban without reinforcements for the U.S. military.
The Virginia Democrat noted that their primary focus right now should be on getting Americans and its allies out of the country safely as threats in the region intensify.
“Intelligence officials have anticipated for years that in the absence of the U.S. military the Taliban would continue to make gains in Afghanistan. That is exactly what has happened as the Afghan National Security Forces proved unable or unwilling to defend against Taliban advances in Kabul and across the country,” he said.
“As the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I hope to work with the other committees of jurisdiction to ask tough but necessary questions about why we weren’t better prepared for a worst-case scenario involving such a swift and total collapse of the Afghan government and security forces. We owe those answers to the American people and to all those who served and sacrificed so much.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said he believes there are multiple factors that led to the downfall in the war-torn nation, adding that he doesn’t think it should be a partisan issue.
“There are no easy answers to how we got here. I would argue that several factors over the last twenty years of war in Afghanistan have shaped this outcome and must be considered as we move forward and engage in future conflicts. … This is not a Democratic or a Republican problem. These failures have been manifesting over four presidential administrations of both political parties,” he said in a statement.
“At the appropriate time, the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold hearings on what went wrong in Afghanistan and lessons learned to avoid repeating those mistakes.”
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) was the first committee head to call for hearings, a move applauded by Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-Texas.), who has been vocal in his calls for answers on the fumbled withdrawal.
The New York Democrat has called for Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to appear before the panel.
“The situation in Afghanistan is rapidly changing and it is imperative that the administration provide the American people and Congress transparency about its Afghanistan strategy,” his statement said.
“I have asked Secretaries Blinken and Austin to testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and tell Congress what the administration’s plan is to safely evacuate American citizens, SIVs, and other vulnerable Afghans from the country, and to understand our broader counter terrorism strategy in South Asia following the collapse of the Ghani government.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that lawmakers need to seek answers and continue to monitor the situation abroad.
“There’s certainly going to be plenty of inquiries, as I just said three defense and foreign policy related committees in the Senate under Democratic chairmen have already announced that they’re beginning a hearing process,” he said during an appearance on the Hugh Hewitt show on Tuesday.
“We need to find out how this happened, and monitor and keep the pressure on. This job is not over, this withdrawal is not complete until all the Americans are safely out.”
House lawmakers are expected to receive a closed-door briefing on the matter as soon as next week.