The Biden administration released a State Department review of its botched Afghanistan withdrawal the Friday before the July Fourth holiday weekend, in what Republicans say was an attempt to bury its release.
The administration also omitted about 60 pages in the version that was released.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) blasted the late release, saying he had called for the administration back in April to release an unclassified version of the review — which was completed in March 2022:
On April 25, I called upon the State Department to declassify its After-Action Review on Afghanistan within 60 days. The department failed to fulfill that request, instead choosing to release only a small portion of that document – 24 of 87 pages that were already unclassified – and completely omitted the narrative which forms the bulk of the report. There is no reason not to produce a declassified version of the full report, as much of it is marked ‘Sensitive but Unclassified’ or ‘Unclassified.’ This is another blatant attempt to hide the Biden administration’s culpability in the chaotic and deadly evacuation from Afghanistan.
Another Republican, House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee Chairman Mike Waltz, tweeted: “Shameful the Biden Administration would release a damning report on Afghanistan the Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend. Typical DC swamp tactic.”
“Like other Afghanistan-related documents, much of this report remains unnecessarily classified to avoid future embarrassment, transparency, and accountability,” added Waltz, a Green Beret Army National Guard colonel who served in Afghanistan.
Like other Afghanistan-related documents, much of this report remains unnecessarily classified to avoid future embarrassment, transparency, and accountability.
— Rep. Mike Waltz (@michaelgwaltz) July 1, 2023
Reporters questioned White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Friday about the report.
She referred questions about the report to the State Department but defended the administration’s transparency, claiming that it has provided Congress with answers.
However, a reporter asked her, “What message does it send to release this long-anticipated report on a Friday on a heavy news day ahead of a holiday weekend?”
“That is a State Department decision, so I would have to refer you to them,” she said.
Asked if she agreed with the report, which faulted senior Biden administration officials for lack of planning and direction, Jean-Pierre said, “I will just let it speak for itself. I’m just not going to comment further.”
The portion of the report that was released said both the Trump and Biden administrations were to blame for the lack of planning for the withdrawal, which saw the deaths of 13 American service members and about 170 Afghans. It said:
The decisions of both President Trump and President Biden to end the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan had serious consequences for the viability of the Afghan government and its security. Those decisions are beyond the scope of this review, but the AAR team found that during both administrations there was insufficient senior-level consideration of worst-case scenarios and how quickly those might follow.
The report said most estimates predicted Kabul would not fall for weeks, if not months later than it did. However, it admitted that “as security conditions in Afghanistan deteriorated, some argued for more urgency in planning for a possible collapse.”
The report said while evacuation planning had been underway “for some time,” the State Department’s participation in the planning process was “hindered by the fact that it was unclear who in the Department had the lead.”