McCaul Delivers Remarks at Hearing Examining Admin’s Failure to Prepare for Afghanistan Withdrawal
Washington, D.C. – House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul gave the following remarks at today’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Accountability hearing examining the Biden administration’s planning for the unconditional U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, including the administration’s decision to close Bagram Airfield and to run the evacuation solely through Kabul airport, its planning for worst case scenarios, and its responses to indications of a rapid Taliban takeover.
– Remarks as delivered –
Thank you, Mr. Chairman for that generous recognition. I want to thank both of you, for your service in the Afghanistan war. Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member. I remember traveling as a member, spending days and you were spending years. And we got a little snapshot of what was going on, but you are on the ground fighting.
And, Mr. Chairman, you know, your loss of limbs, the sacrifice that both of you made. But Mr. Chairman, particularly you, does not go unnoticed by this committee or me as the chairman of the full committee. And I just want to thank you for your service. And I want to thank the gold star families, it’s good to see you again.
We had a very nice visit last week. You know, Christy Shamblin, the mother in law of Sergeant Nicole Gee, Alicia Lopez, mother of Corporal Hunter Lopez. I used, by the way, Hunter’s pen to sign my subpoena for the After Action Report from the State Department. That is still yet to be complied with. And Alan Doolittle and Coral Briseno, the parents of Corporal Sanchez, thank you. And the witnesses for your moral courage to come here today to speak the truth about what happened.
And to the ranking member, I agree. There are many mistakes made in the 20 years, but the ultimate mistake ended with 20 years of blood and treasure, with now the Taliban in charge, raising their flag over our embassy, taking $7 billion of our weapons, leaving the women behind under Sharia law now, where they can’t even go outside.
I was with the ambassador to Afghanistan, Roya Rahmani. I had dinner with her last night. And we talked about what happened. How it was stabilized, and then it went into chaos, because one man made the decision, and that is the commander in chief. And the buck stops here, as Harry Truman would say. So let’s own it. And take responsibility and not try to kick it down or go back in time and say it was someone else’s fault.
True leaders own mistakes. And this was a mistake of epic proportions. This unconditional withdrawal – I call it the unconditional surrender to the Taliban, who have now taken over Afghanistan. And what’s really sad, especially when we examine the Abbey Gate, and we heard from [Sergeant Tyler Vargas-Andrews] about the fact that it could have been prevented. In many cases, that is the hardest thing, I know for the families to accept. And I was there. We were there for the briefings from State, from DoD, and the IC. And for months, President Biden ignored warnings from his own generals, and his own intelligence community, and bipartisan members of Congress about what was happening on the ground.
As the narrative didn’t fit what was happening on the ground, coming out of the White House, as the Chairman so eloquently went through. Whether it was his spokespersons, to him himself about what was happening, it was like a blind eye. The result of this committee’s oversight so far, we did get access to the dissent cable from the employees at the embassy. They were telling the story about what was happening, they were the ones who said, Mr. President, it’s gonna happen fast.
They predicted by September 1st. They got pretty close. And they said, we’re not prepared. And you need to prepare for this. There’s an old adage, if you fail to plan you plan to fail. This was a complete failure because we didn’t have a plan of action.
And what they said, was disturbing because it predicted exactly what was going to happen if we didn’t act fast. And yet even with that warning, President Biden and Secretary Blinken failed to change course, to the very end.
Rather than prioritizing US national security and the safety of thousands of Americans, they forced this rapid withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan on an artificial timeline. And the number is going to be September the 11th. What an insult to the victims of 9/11. That was going to happen on 9/11. We all know they stopped fighting in the wintertime.
Why wouldn’t you? Why wouldn’t you plan it at a time that made sense? And then the shutdown of Bagram Airbase, our ISR crown jewels to see Russia, China, and Iran and the terrorists in the region, was shut down in the dead of night.
It was not driven by national security, It was driven by politics. You know, the idea that you’re going to drop troop levels of 650 service members – to do this is insane. And once we abandoned Bagram, I’m sure we’ll hear this from Jacob Smith. You know? 12,000 prisoners are released in the Afghan- ISIS-K, the suicide bomber released from Bagram, $7 billion of equipment left behind, and now they’re selling it to our adversaries and to terrorist nations.
And yet, we made zero, seems to me very little attempts to get the men and women who fought alongside US servicemen out of that country to safety. And our partners, our interpreters are now left behind to be hunted down by the Taliban, with the very biometrics that we created. And now they can go door to door to get a fingerprint to confirm if they worked with the United States. And then they’re executed.
To me it’s sad, that after 20 years of blood and treasure, where are we now with the women, the Taliban in control, the geopolitical issues that face – you know, China now is there for God’s sakes, and the lithium. China will probably get access to Bagram. It’s hard for me to tell the veterans that, and the suicide rate is so high. And to them, I tell them, it was worth it. Because you made this country safe for 20 years.
I chaired the Homeland Security Committee, we stopped a lot of external operations to kill Americans. It’s because men and women like these two, and your sons and daughters, were there, getting that intelligence to make this country safe.
So, I wanted to, again, thank the families for being here. I can’t imagine the grief that you have. But I can tell you that we are going to hold that – we’re going to uncover what happened. We’re going to uncover- transparency and accountability is very important to me, and I think to all members of this committee, and we want accountability. And I will not rest until we get that. And I promise you, that while the President wants to sweep this under the rug, that I will never forget what happened.
And I will hold people accountable. And we will on this committee ensure that something like this never, ever happens again in the United States of America, the greatest country in the world. I want to thank the Chairman for holding this hearing. With that, I yield back.