Top Republican calls on Biden administration to share pre-withdrawal intelligence reports on Afghanistan

·3 min read

A top Republican lawmaker is demanding that the Biden administration share with Congress recent intelligence reports and diplomatic cables about Afghanistan in the run-up to the withdrawal of U.S. troops last month, including estimates of the likelihood of a Taliban takeover of the country.

Congress needs to have access to the intelligence reporting on Afghanistan “to understand how the situation deteriorated so quickly and why the Administration made the decisions they did regarding the disastrous evacuation,” Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote in a letter to the administration that was obtained by NBC News.

Addressing Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and National Intelligence Director Avril Haines, McCaul wrote that Congress is interested in the U.S. intelligence assessments and diplomatic messages “to see exactly how these products were reflected in the Biden Administration’s contingency and worst-case scenario planning.”

Lawmakers from both parties have criticized the White House over how it managed the evacuation marked by chaotic scenes at the Kabul airport, questioning why the airlift was not launched earlier and whether senior officials took into account the Taliban’s rapid advance on the battlefield and other warning signs.

The Biden administration has insisted that the evacuation of about 124,000 Afghans and others from Kabul last month was an “extraordinary success” and vowed to help secure safe passage of U.S. citizens, Afghans who hold green cards and Afghan allies who remain in the country following the Taliban’s seizure of power.

A spokesperson said the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is reviewing the letter and declined further comment. The Defense Department and the State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

McCaul called on the administration to submit to Congress within 30 days intelligence reporting presented at White House meetings of senior officials about “the strength and goals of the Taliban, the capabilities of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to fight the Taliban without our continued support, reliability of senior political leadership in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the evacuation related consequences for not maintaining Bagram Air Base, and the various time estimates over the course of this year on the likelihood of a Taliban takeover of the country.”

In addition, he asked for State Department cables and intelligence reports about the threat from the Islamic State terrorist group to Kabul's international airport before its Aug. 26 attack that killed 13 U.S. service members and more than 110 Afghans.

“I understand there may have been specific and credible threat information the day before the attack,” he wrote.

Lawmakers on the House and Senate intelligence committees had received periodic intelligence briefings about the situation in Afghanistan. But McCaul is asking for a more comprehensive look at intelligence information before the withdrawal and for declassification of much of that information for public release.

In his Sept. 23 letter, McCaul also asked the administration to declassify and make public as much information as possible about the security situation in Afghanistan and the Aug. 26 attack on Kabul airport.

CORRECTION (Sept. 23, 2021, 1:45 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misidentified the U.S. troops killed in the Kabul airport bombing. Not all of the 13 U.S. service members who died were Marines.

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