In the absence of vigorous oversight from the congressional majority, Representative Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is trying to fill the gap. He hired an investigator — Ryan Browne, a former CNN reporter — to scrutinize the Biden administration’s handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, his office announced today.
The move came as Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrapped up the second round of marathon congressional hearings this afternoon at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. What’s clear from the two sessions is that some key Democrats aren’t up to the task of holding the administration accountable.
To be sure, a few, as Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, did this morning, excoriated Blinken for the administration’s handling of the debacle. But others, such as Representative Gregory Meeks, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, defended the White House, arguing that alternatives to a messy withdrawal would have been more disastrous and that the Trump administration is to blame. (Even Menendez pitched Blinken a softball question on contingency response planning that rehashed the State Department’s talking points.)
More hearings will follow, with Democrats promising to conduct robust oversight of the White House. But comments this week by more than a few Democratic lawmakers raise questions about their commitment to pressing for true accountability. Now that might be best achieved through an independent investigation.
McCaul explained the unusual move in a statement to NRO detailing potential focuses of Browne’s investigation:
There are still a lot of outstanding questions on what decisions were being made leading up to the withdrawal, including why the White House pressed DOD to withdraw troops before we evacuated American civilians and our Afghan partners, why assets like Bagram were not maintained, and why we didn’t have ISR basing and counterterrorism strike agreements in place in neighboring countries. We also need to know what was happening inside the gates of HKIA — specifically the process for who was allowed in. There are reports of American citizens not being able to get inside the gates even after getting past the Taliban. And it’s still unclear what the State Department is doing to fulfill President Biden’s promise to get the remaining Americans, green card holders and our Afghan partners out of the country before it’s too late.
An unspecified number of Americans remain stranded in Afghanistan, making a thorough investigation of the administration’s handling of the situation all the more important.