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House Intel Republicans demand Afghanistan withdrawal declassifications

Taliban fighters and Afghan people gather around the dead body of security personnel inside the city of Farah, capital of Farah province southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. (G3 Box News Photo/Mohammad Asif Khan) Mohammad Asif Khan/G3 Box News

House Intel Republicans demand Afghanistan withdrawal declassifications

Cami Mondeaux

July 26, 09:20 PM July 26, 09:20 PM

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House Republicans are calling on the Biden administration to release information related to the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops almost a year ago that preceded the collapse of the Afghan government and the Taliban retaking power.

GOP members of the House Intelligence Committee penned a letter to the secretaries of defense and state, urging them to comply with previous requests to release preliminary findings regarding the “rapid fall” of Afghanistan after 20 years of war. Lawmakers initially requested the information in December as they put together their own investigation to determine the “root causes” of the collapse.

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“There must be a full accounting of U.S. government’s investments in the [Afghan National Defense and Security Forces] and Afghan government and an understanding of why those efforts failed in such rapid and dramatic fashion,” the group of lawmakers, led by Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), wrote. “It is unclear why the [Department of Defense] needs this information to remain classified and withheld from the public.”

The United States withdrew its troops from Afghanistan nearly one year ago, and the country’s capital fell to the Taliban on Aug. 15. Hundreds of U.S. citizens and tens of thousands of Afghan allies and interpreters were still in the country when the U.S. left before the end of August.

The Taliban rapidly retook Afghanistan in mid-August amid the withdrawal, and a suicide bombing that month killed 13 U.S. service members and at least 170 Afghan civilians outside the Kabul airport during the evacuations.

Shortly after, the Biden administration was tasked with providing the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction information so officials could investigate the cause of the collapse of the Afghan government.

“Most of the information contained in these supplemental annexes was classified by the DoD in 2017 at the request of the former Afghan president and in agreement with the U.S. Forces-Afghanistan Commanding General,” the letter states. “Those organizations no longer exist, and there appears to be no compelling reason for this information to be withheld from public release.”

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In their most recent letter, lawmakers pressed the secretaries of defense and state to either release the requested information or provide a “detailed report outlining the justification” for why the information cannot be declassified.

Republicans have long planned investigations into the Afghanistan debacle, with lawmakers calling for open congressional hearings on how the Biden administration handled the withdrawal of troops as well as the evacuation of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies. That could come to fruition next year if the GOP wins one or both chambers of Congress in the midterm elections.

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