The Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees — both chaired by Democrats — will launch investigations into the “flawed” American withdrawal from Afghanistan, which left up to 10,000 American citizens and 40,000 allies stranded as the Taliban closed in on the capital city of Kabul.
President Joe Biden stood behind the administration’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan during a speech on Monday but barely addressed the botched pullout; the White House’s national security advisors and top administration officials have said, since Sunday, that the Taliban onslaught moved faster than expected, as did the Afghan government’s collapse.
Senior Democrats, though, say they’re not convinced the Biden administration thought through the withdrawal itself, and both Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, say they will use their positions to investigate the bungled exit.
“Senate Democrats on Monday promised they would investigate how and why the U.S. military departure from Afghanistan was bungled, even as most people in President Biden’s party said they supported his decision to pull American troops out of the country,” Yahoo News reported Monday, citing Warner’s issues with the situation. “Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., vowed to use his perch as chair of a powerful Senate committee to get to the bottom of why Biden has had to send roughly 7,000 U.S. troops back to Afghanistan to stabilize a situation in which desperate Afghans swarmed the airport in Kabul.”
That number is roughly three times the number of American troops who were in Afghanistan prior to the decision to withdraw. Biden noted on Monday that he felt the need to pull American forces from the country before the U.S. embarked on the “third decade” of an Afghan conflict, but he did not mention what would happen to the 7,000 troops now being sent in to ensure a full evacuation.
The Biden administration, on Tuesday, refused to say whether American forces will remain in Afghanistan beyond August 31st, even if all Americans have yet to be evacuated.
“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,” Warner said in his statement.
On Tuesday, Menendez said that he would “seek a full accounting” of the “flawed execution of the U.S. withdrawal” through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“I am disappointed that the Biden administration clearly did not accurately assess the implications of a rapid U.S. withdrawal,” Menendez said in his own statement. “We are now witnessing the horrifying results of many years o policy and intelligence failures.”
He added that the Afghan army’s “collapse” was “astounding” and that “Congress was told repeatedly that the Afghan Defense and Security Forces were up to the task.”
“The American and Afghan people clearly have not been told the truth,” he said.
The New York Times and Reuters both reported Tuesday that intelligence and military officials warned the Biden administration that the Afghan government could collapse and that the Taliban could move into Kabul much faster than expected. The White House, though, was said to be “behind the curve” and delayed in its decision-making.