On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold its first hearing of the 118th Congress to investigate the Biden administration's withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021. Republicans have labeled the withdrawal a "stunning failure" of leadership. As U.S. troops prepared to leave Afghanistan on Biden's orders, the Taliban rapidly seized control of Kabul, resulting in the deaths of 13 U.S. service members and 170 others in a suicide bombing near the Hamid Karzai International Airport. Furthermore, thousands of U.S. citizens and allies were left stranded in the Taliban-controlled country.
According to a GOP committee aide, the hearing serves two purposes. First, it is intended to remind everyone why the investigation is important, and second, it provides veterans an opportunity to share their stories and experiences on the ground during the withdrawal. The committee aide emphasized the hearing's importance, stressing that many individuals believe the government has ignored the trauma caused by the withdrawal.
Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, expressed his views on the issue in an interview with Fox News Digital. He described the withdrawal as a "systemic breakdown" of the federal government and a "stunning failure of leadership" by the Biden administration. McCaul expressed his determination to hold those responsible for the incident accountable, and he encouraged gold and blue star family members and veterans to watch the hearing.
The hearing will feature several witnesses, including Army medic and former Specialist Aidan Gunderson, Sergeant Tyler Vargas-Andrews, who was seriously injured at Abbey Gate, Francis Q. Hoang, the executive chairman of volunteer organization Allied Airlift 21, Peter Lucier, the lead for strategic partnerships and allied organizations for Team America Relief, and Lt. Col. (Ret.) David Scott Mann, the founder of Operation Pineapple Express. Task Force Pineapple, which Mann initiated and Gunderson assisted in, has so far evacuated around 1,000 Afghan allies.
McCaul plans to request access to the classified dissenting cable that U.S. State Department employees sent, warning of a deteriorating security situation and urging the immediate evacuation of allies. He has stated his readiness to issue a subpoena to obtain answers to his questions. McCaul also intends to investigate why the suicide bomber was allowed to leave Bagram, why Bagram Airport was handed over to the Taliban, and other matters.
In August 2022, as the then-ranking member on the committee, McCaul released an interim report outlining the findings of his investigation into the withdrawal. The report was critical, accusing the administration of failing to evacuate some U.S.-trained Afghan military personnel and potentially creating a significant national security risk.