House hearings on Afghanistan troop withdrawal set to begin

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Refugees are evacuated from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 26, 2021, where dozens of U.S. service members and Afghans were killed by an attack during the U.S. withdrawal of troops. Photo by Hassan Majeed/UPI | License Photo

March 7 (UPI) — The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold its first hearing Wednesday on the United States’ troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021.

Two groups that organized charter flights from the country, Allied Airlift 21 and Task Force Pineapple, are scheduled to testify before the Republican-led committee, which has criticized the Biden administration’s withdrawal.

The committee said in a statement that the hearing would build upon a report released last August that said the Biden administration had not handed over enough documents regarding the withdrawal.

“The Biden administration’s, and specifically the State Department’s, refusal to provide Congress with the necessary information regarding America’s unconditional withdrawal from Afghanistan has hampered the Minority Committee’s ability to complete a thorough investigation,” the report said.

As the United States completed the withdrawal, 13 U.S. troops were killed on Aug. 26 in coordinated bombings by ISIS-K fighters near the airport in Kabul. President Joe Biden later ordered a drone strike against ISIS-K targets in Kabul, which also killed several civilians.

ISIS-K is an offshoot of the Islamic State operating in Khorasan Province.

More than 124,000 people were evacuated from the country and U.S. weapons worth billions of dollars were left behind.

A report by Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction concluded that the withdrawal of U.S. military forces was a contributing factor to the collapse of the Afghan government in August 2021, which was followed by Taliban troops swiftly overtaking Kabul.

“The single most important factor in the collapse … was the U.S. decision to withdraw military forces and contractors from Afghanistan through signing the U.S.-Taliban agreement in February 2020 under the Trump administration, followed by President Biden’s withdrawal announcement in April 2021,” the report said.

SIGAR added that morale among the Afghan forces had been “destroyed” by the U.S. withdrawal and especially by negotiations between former President Donald Trump — who initially reached the deal to withdraw U.S. troops — and the Taliban.

The Foreign Affairs Committee is not the only panel in the House seeking more information from the Biden administration on Afghanistan.

“The Biden administration was tragically unprepared for the Afghanistan withdrawal and their decisions in the region directly resulted in a national security and humanitarian catastrophe,” House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., said in a statement.

Letters were sent by Comer and other Republicans to the White House, the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff seeking information for oversight hearings.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley deliver remarks about the end of the 20-year military mission in Afghanistan at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va., on September 1. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

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