House to investigate Biden’s shocking Afghanistan withdrawal failure
The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in August 2021 marked a turning point for President Joe Biden's administration and the nation more broadly, and serious questions are now being asked about the manner in which that critical operation was handled.
On Wednesday, the Republican-led House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing to launch its investigation of the administration's "stunning" failures and shortcomings before, during, and after the withdrawal, The Hill reported.
The hearing largely featured testimony from military veterans who were on the ground during that tenuous period, either deployed on active duty or as private citizens aiding others, and they shared their critical and at times emotional accounts of what transpired.
Biden's "dereliction of duty" in Afghanistan
Republican Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (TX-10) delivered an opening statement that summarized the situation in the run-up to the Taliban takeover of Kabul while U.S. forces were still attempting to withdraw themselves and Afghan allies from the airport in the capital city.
"Because of the Biden administration’s dereliction of duty, the world watched heartbreaking scenes unfold in and around the Kabul airport for the next two weeks," McCaul said. "A sea of humanity, desperately trying to make it through airport gates that represented freedom."
He referenced the harrowing scenes of desperate Afghans falling from overloaded evacuation planes, of mothers handing over their babies to strangers, and the deadly suicide bombing outside the gates that killed 13 U.S. servicemembers and wounded 45 more, plus killed at least 170 Afghans and wounded countless more.
A "stunning failure of leadership"
The Texas congressman also spoke of the veterans who voluntarily led the hasty evacuation efforts focused on U.S. citizens and Afghan allies with little or no help from the administration, and said, "It is often referred to like Schindler’s List. If you’re on the list, you made it out alive. If you weren’t, you didn’t."
"What happened in Afghanistan was a systemic breakdown of the federal government at every level — and a stunning, stunning failure of leadership by the Biden administration," McCaul said.
"This was an abdication of the most basic duties of the U.S. government: To protect Americans and leave no one behind," the chairman concluded. "I want every gold and blue star family member, and every veteran out there watching this today to know: I will not rest, and this committee will not rest until we determine how this happened — and hold those responsible for it accountable."
"The withdrawal was a catastrophe"
The Hill also reported on what was arguably the most emotional moment of the hearing in which the committee heard the account of Marine Sgt. Tyler Justin Vargas-Andrews, who was providing overwatch at the gate of the Kabul airport and was grievously wounded in the bombing attack that killed one of his closest friends.
He shared how he and others likely spotted the suicide bomber prior to the devastating blast but were not given the permission needed from superiors to take the shot that would have saved hundreds of lives from death and injury.
Fighting through his tears, the Marine who lost an arm, a leg, and a kidney to the blast asserted, "The withdrawal was a catastrophe in my opinion and there was an inexcusable lack of accountability and negligence. The eleven Marines, one Sailor, and one Soldier that were murdered that day have not been answered for."
"A callous, cold-hearted, incompetent episode"
The hearing also placed a focus on the apparent lack of planning by the administration ahead of the withdrawal as well as the excuses from the White House that their hands had been tied by the prior Trump administration in terms of the timing of the withdrawal.
Republican Rep. Brian Mast (FL-21), himself a military veteran, said, "Whether somebody believes we should or should not have withdrawn, it is evident to everybody that it should not have been done in the manner in which it was done. But this administration is perfectly comfortable not being haunted by the losses that took place."
A similar statement was made by Republican Rep. French Hill (AR-02), who said, "Let’s be clear: if we knew we were leaving at the beginning of the Biden administration based on the Trump administration, then where was the plan? Where was the plan to properly evacuate?" and added, "We may well not have had a choice to leave, but how you leave is a choice."
Afghanistan veteran Republican Rep. Mike Waltz (FL-06) said to the witnesses, "I’ve never been more proud of my fellow Americans and veterans as I am with this group. But I’ve also never been more disgusted with my own government," and added, "This was a callous, cold-hearted, incompetent episode on the part of this administration and it is not worthy of … their sacrifice."
You can watch the entire hearing here.