House Republicans to Launch Probe of Biden Afghan Policy in Next Congress – Lawmaker
November 11, 2022
The U.S. House, expected to be controlled by the Republicans as a result of this week’s midterm elections, will launch a probe into President Joe Biden’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan after the new Congress convenes in January, Representative Michael McCaul, who is likely to lead the investigation, said on Friday.
On November 8, U.S. voters cast ballots in the midterm elections, which are projected to see the Republicans take the majority from President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party.
The party of Lincoln is expected to win 220 House seats, three more than the 218 required. The Democrats currently have a 220-212 majority with three seats vacant. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate remains up for grabs, with three contests yet to be called.
“Afghanistan will be a major area of focus, and it’s important because of our veterans. They ask me a question, ‘was it worth it?’ And they want to know why things went so badly. And never have had the answers as to why it went the way it did,” McCaul, who is expected to take over the House Foreign Affairs Committee when the next Congress convenes in January, told Fox News.
The lawmaker, speaking on Veterans Day, wants to investigate developments like the attack that killed 13 U.S. service members at the Kabul airport amid the withdrawal in August of 2021. McCaul complained that the U.S. allowed the Taliban to be in charge of the perimeter, among other incidents of alleged negligence.
“100,000 Afghan partners that we promised we would protect [are] at the mercy of the Taliban. Now China is in there,” McCaul added.
Most importantly, he added, is that Afghanistan was “a turning point” from projecting strength to weakness.
“It’s hard when they look at China is in [Afghanistan] with $1 trillion of lithium and will most likely get access to Bagram Air Base and which were our eyes and ears in Russia, China and Iran,” the lawmaker added.
Lithium is a crucial component in transitioning to a “green” global economy, but Afghan’s mine ministry in the past has warned that the process would be cost-prohibitive: i.e., extracting the minerals will likely cost more than the minerals are worth. This of course is more about a strategic investment than an undertaking for immediate profits. China has struggled with other mining projects largely due to the violence.
McCaul’s comments about China are also interesting because even many who opposed the U.S. exit conceded that America remaining in Afghanistan was a strategic benefit to Beijing. For China it may be a mixed blessing. Getting rid of the Western rival could be seen as a positive, but now Beijing also must deal with terror groups protected by the Taliban.
According to several polls, foreign policy issues were far from the mind of American voters during the midterms, with inflation and abortion seeming to dominate the list. However, Republicans see in Afghanistan a topic they can use as a weapon to undermine Biden ahead of the 2024 presidential race. The Afghan fiasco when it happened sent Biden’s poll numbers plummeting to a level from which they never returned.
The Biden administration meanwhile would like to of course forget Afghanistan ever happened, although officials and the president himself have said the “over-the-horizon” counter-terror strategy has paid dividends, pointing to the U.S. strike that killed al-Qaeda’s leader inside Afghanistan this summer.
In August, Republicans released a report on the Afghan withdrawal and vowed to subpoena top State Department officials in a probe, foreshadowing what is to come.
Recent comments from Secretary of State Antony Blinken that surfaced in a documentary released last month, set fuel to the fire. Blinken told the journalist that the administration felt the U.S. would maintain a presence in the country well into 2022, a remarkable admission.
“Everything that we planned and did was based on that assumption,” Blinken said in an HBO documentary on Biden’s first year.
The State Department and Pentagon came under fire for seeming to be blindsided by a Taliban victory that was inevitable as foreign troops protecting Ghani’s government headed towards the exit doors. It seemed one only needed to follow local and national headlines to get the sense that the end was nearing. But, somehow, the U.S. was unprepared.
After a negotiation process that basically handed Afghanistan to the Taliban, the Trump administration began closing bases and extracting troops. However, Biden when he came into office put the exit on hold for a few months, only to go forward with it anyway. Then when the inevitable happened, the U.S. and its partners cut-off the aid that was propping up the economy, thereby exacerbating another foreseeable crisis.
Many Republicans, however, are not putting forward a new Afghan strategy – which, actually, is probably a good thing. They have a backward-looking agenda to “hold Biden accountable,” which is fine and all. But nobody was held accountable for all types of fiascos – from the Iraq war to civilian deaths in Afghanistan.
Holding people accountable for war crimes should take priority over holding Biden accountable over his incompetence.