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GOP demands Blinken contempt of Congress vote after Afghan cable deal falls short

by Ryan King & Jerry Dunleavy

Multiple key Republican members on the House Foreign Affairs Committee are harshly criticizing the State Department for continuing to withhold a key Afghanistan dissent cable from them.

The State Department announced last Wednesday that it would allow Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the committee, and Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), its ranking member, to look at a somewhat redacted version of the July 2021 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul after the GOP had moved toward holding Secretary of State Antony Blinken in contempt over his refusal to comply with a congressional subpoena to make the document available.

But GOP members of the committee, many of them veterans of the war in Afghanistan, said that the slight cave by Blinken is not nearly good enough.

Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL), a former Army Green Beret who served in Afghanistan, told the Washington Examiner that Blinken’s offer was a “red herring” and “specious.”

“It’s a weak excuse,” Waltz said. “And again, I keep asking, if this was such an outstanding success, as the president and Blinken said, then what is there to hide? This should be shared with us, and we wouldn’t see much, in line with their logic — what is there to hide?”

Waltz said it was problematic for the State Department itself to attempt to “summarize the whistleblowing” by U.S. Embassy in Kabul employees who were blowing the whistle against the State Department, saying, “It just doesn’t even come close to passing the smell test. Talk about a conflict of interest.”

House Republicans have argued since late 2021 that the Biden administration has been stonewalling McCaul’s investigations into the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, which ended with a chaotic evacuation, a Taliban takeover, hundreds of Americans and thousands of Afghan allies left behind, and 13 U.S. service members killed in an ISIS-K suicide bombing.

“My stance is that the country should be able to see it. It should be declassified and released. And certainly, you know who should be briefed on it is the 13 Gold Star families,” Waltz told the Washington Examiner. “But absent that, yes, members of Congress should be able to see something of this significance.”

McCaul previously announced his committee would consider a resolution to hold Blinken in contempt on May 24. The proposed resolution recommends that the House find Blinken “in contempt of Congress for refusal to comply with a subpoena duly issued by the Committee on Foreign Affairs.” Waltz said that the “bottom line is, I’m going to continue to push for the contempt vote.”

McCaul reviewed the dissent cable and Blinken’s response to it at the State Department on Tuesday afternoon, and he agreed the full committee must see it.

“I am thankful to Secretary Blinken for allowing myself and Ranking Member Meeks to view the dissent channel cable – an unprecedented occurrence,” McCaul said in a statement obtained by the Washington Examiner. “However, every member on our committee should be granted this same access.

McCaul said he’ll discuss the “next course of action” with his committee members.

“Although I cannot discuss the classified information in the cable, I can say the dissenters were right — and the administration should have listened,” he said.

House Republicans have grown frustrated after Blinken repeatedly refused to hand over the cable, which was signed by two dozen embassy staffers in Kabul and sent to the State Department in mid-July 2021, just over a month before the Taliban took over the country. The cable is known to have criticized the State Department’s planning for the coming evacuation and warned that Kabul could collapse soon after the U.S. moved to withdraw its troops.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Republicans said they want to see the cable and want the U.S. public to see it, too.

“When our team rescued Americans from the Taliban 2021, I witnessed the Biden admin’s dereliction of duty during the withdrawal,” Rep. Cory Mills (R-FL) said in a statement to the Washington Examiner. “It is incumbent upon Congress to hold those responsible accountable for the American lives lost and that’s exactly what the House Foreign Affairs Committee has been doing. After months of testimonies and mounting pressure, the State Department has decided to provide access to an internal cable about the botched withdrawal but only to Rep. McCaul and Rep. Meeks.”

Mills, a veteran of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, added that “this is personal to me,” and so, “I demand transparency not just for the entire House Foreign Affairs committee but for the American people.”

Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee, is a former U.S. Army explosive ordnance disposal technician who lost both his legs in Afghanistan in 2010. His office directed the Washington Examiner to a statement he made last week in which he called Blinken only allowing McCaul and Meeks to see the cable a “crappy compromise.”

Mast called Blinken’s intransigence “screwed up” and said as subcommittee chairman and “a veteran who left limbs in Kandahar, my job is to make sure that the 13 Gold Star families and millions of veterans who poured their blood, sweat, and tears into Afghanistan get the answers they deserve.” He called the dissent cable “an essential piece of the puzzle.”

“Every Member of this Committee has a right to view this cable because every Member of this Committee has a responsibility to conduct oversight and get to the bottom of how the Biden Administration got it so wrong,” Mast said.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) told the Washington Examiner that “contempt of Blinken is 100% still on the table, and it has to be, because after so many lies, this administration can’t be trusted to tell the truth about its Afghanistan disaster.” Issa added that “GOP Foreign Affairs Committee members — including Chairman McCaul — are clear that the offer from Blinken is incomplete and unacceptable.”

The cable in question, sent to Blinken and the State Department’s director of policy planning, Salman Ahmed, reportedly warned about the collapse of the Afghan military and a near-term Taliban takeover, urging the State Department to speed up its evacuation planning, do more to deal with the glut of special immigrant visa applications, and help safeguard Afghans who had assisted U.S. forces in the country.

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