GOP threatens to subpoena State Department over classified cable on Afghanistan


The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday threatened to subpoena the State Department over documents related to the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, raising the stakes in the ongoing calculation of the America on its chaotic 2021 exit.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) has given Secretary of State Antony Blinken until Monday evening to provide the committee with a cable drafted by diplomats from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul expressing urgent concerns about the deteriorating security before the US-backed government collapsed and handed the country over to the Taliban. The July 13, 2021, communication was sent through a special “dissent channel” that allows State Department officials to issue warnings or express opposing views directly to senior agency officials.

“We need this dissident cable, and I think the American people deserve to see it, to know what happened around the world during these critical weeks,” McCaul told Blinken during a hearing on the State Department budget. “I have the subpoena. It’s right here, and I’m ready to serve that.

McCaul, who before becoming committee chairman oversaw a 2022 Republican report on the events surrounding the withdrawal, requested a number of documents related to the tumultuous departure from the United States, which included the evacuation of more than 100,000 civilians. and a suicide bombing that killed 13 people. American soldiers and about 170 Afghans. These events and the rise of the Taliban marked the ignominious end of the two-decade American struggle in Afghanistan.

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The State Department provided lawmakers with some, but not all, of the requested documents — Blinken referred to “thousands of pages” of a single report. He told McCaul that the State Department would submit an internal after-action report in the coming weeks, but he put the dissident cable in a different category.

“It is essential to me that we preserve the integrity of this process and this channel, that we do not take any action that could have a chilling effect on the willingness of others to come forward in the future, to express opinions dissenters about the policies that are being pursued,” Blinken said, underscoring a desire to protect the identity of those who submit such messages.

Blinken said the agency is ready to provide “relevant information” from the cable to lawmakers during a briefing or other forum.

“Hopefully we can find a way to do this that meets both of our needs.” he said.

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Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (DN.Y.), a Democrat who led the committee until Republicans took a majority in the House earlier this year, said he also asked for the cable, which is classified. But he said he understood the desire to avoid discouraging employees from using the dissent channel in the future.

“I trust the department will endeavor to accommodate this request from Congress as I believe the substance contained in the cable is extremely important for the members of this committee to know and if we do so in a confidential session” , did he declare.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) cautioned Blinken against providing heavily redacted documents to the committee. Another Republican lawmaker, Rep. Tim Burchett (Tenn.), showed the committee a page, all black with redactions, that he said was taken from one of the documents the administration submitted.

“I might suggest to you after our many mutual years of doing this, that your best bet is accommodation where appropriate, compliance when a subpoena comes, which means this type of writing cannot and should not not be accepted by Congress once a subpoena is issued,” Issa said.

He urged Blinken to make sure the committee “doesn’t get what I sometimes call a black cow eating a licorice at midnight.”


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