US state secretary under pressure to disclose bombshell Afghanistan cables
Anthony Blinken has refused to hand over cables in which US embassy officials warned of an imminent Taliban victory weeks before Washington's botched withdrawal
By News Desk - May 08 2023

(Photo Credit: REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy)

The chairman of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), Michael McCaul, has given State Secretary Anthony Blinken a sharp 11 May deadline to release classified cables from July 2021, in which staffers from the US embassy in Kabul warned that the defeat of the US-trained Afghan army was “imminent.”

McCaul stressed that the state secretary faces being held in contempt of Congress if he fails to deliver the cables, adding that the HFAC “is prepared to take the necessary steps to enforce its subpoena, including holding you in contempt of Congress and/or initiating a civil enforcement proceeding.”

“[I]t is inherently problematic for the Department, which is the subject of the Committee’s investigation, to be permitted to withhold key material evidence and substitute its own abbreviated characterizations of that evidence for the original documents. The Committee is aware of no other type of investigation (whether law enforcement, Inspector General audit, or internal compliance) where this is the standard operating procedure,” McCaul wrote in his letter to Blinken.

The HFAC head also laid out options he characterized as “a potential accommodation” for Blinken’s compliance, including accepting copies of the cables with all names redacted and reviewing the cables in camera.

In March, Blinken was subpoenaed to release the cables as part of an HFAC investigation into the disastrous withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in August 2021.

McCaul has pushed back the subpoena deadline several times – from 4 April to 21 April and then to 1 May.

The existence of the classified cables was first reported by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on 19 August 2021, four days after the Taliban completed their takeover of Afghanistan and as Washington pushed forward with the withdrawal of occupation troops.

In the communication, dated 13 July 2021, both Blinken and Director of Policy Planning Salman Ahmed were warned by officials on the ground that “the Taliban’s advance was coming sooner than the administration had anticipated, and correctly predicted that Afghanistan’s military would be unable to stop it.”

The state department maintains that sharing the complete cables with the congressional committee could have a “dangerous impact” on diplomats’ use of the so-called ‘dissent channel,’ which is a confidential way to share concerns with top officials.

“It’s unfortunate that despite having received a classified briefing on the dissent channel cable as well as a written summary that the House Foreign Affairs Committee continues to pursue this unnecessary and unproductive action,” a state department spokesperson said in a statement to Reuters on Monday.

On 31 August 2021, the US finished its withdrawal from the war-torn country after witnessing the Taliban cut through the Afghan army with little to no opposition.

Images of crowds storming parked planes, climbing atop aircraft, and even clinging to a departing US military cargo plane as it rolled down the runway of Kabul airport aired around the world, sending the approval ratings of US President Joe Biden plummeting.

Last year, the US Air Force cleared a C-17 cargo plane crew of any responsibility for taking off with desperate civilians hanging onto the wings and undercarriage.

US troops were also cleared of responsibility for a drone strike that killed an entire family in Kabul, including seven children, and for a massacre outside Kabul airport during the last days of the withdrawal, when US and NATO troops killed well over 150 Afghan civilians after an ISIS suicide bomber blew himself up.

Nearly 50,000 civilians were killed during the 20 years of occupation and war. Thousands of Afghan refugees remain stranded in refugee camps, awaiting humanitarian visas to enter the US.

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