House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul (R–TX) announced Sunday that he had formally requested a series of transcribed interviews from current and former State Department officials as part of his panel’s investigation into the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.
McCaul’s requests for on–the–record interviews are the first in the probe of the frenzied final weeks of the 2021 withdrawal, during which a suicide bomber attacked the Kabul airport and killed 13 US service members and more than 100 Afghans.
The Texas Republican sent requests Friday to Jonathan Mennuti, former acting chief of staff to acting Under Secretary of State for Management Carol Perez; Mark Evans, former acting deputy assistant secretary for Afghanistan; James DeHart, former leader of the Afghanistan Task Force; Consul General Jayne Howell; and former Ambassador Daniel Smith, who led the State Department’s after–action review of the withdrawal.
McCaul asked that the witnesses contact the committee to arrange for their interviews by May 22.
In a statement on Sunday, McCaul said: “Through our ongoing investigation, we have determined these five individuals have important information that is critical to uncovering how and why the Biden administration’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan resulted in the deaths of 13 U.S. service members and the injury of 47 more, and in the abandonment of more than a thousand U.S. citizens and hundreds of thousands of our Afghan partners in a country controlled by terrorists. It is crucial they speak with the committee without delay. As we continue to gather evidence, the Committee will continue to interview additional current and former administration officials involved in the planning and execution of the withdrawal.”
McCaul further noted that he was “prepared to move forward” with contempt of Congress proceedings against Secretary of State Antony Blinken for not providing the requested material.
“This would be the first time a secretary of state has ever been held in contempt by Congress and it’s criminal contempt. So I don’t take it lightly,” McCaul said on ABC’s “This Week.”
A State Department spokesperson previously called the panel’s threat to hold Blinken in contempt of Congress an “unnecessary and unproductive action.”
McCaul’s latest requests come as the Biden administration’s Afghanistan withdrawal continues to prompt questions from Republicans in the House, who have accused the White House of putting US personnel and allies at risk with the move. The administration has defended the withdrawal as necessary and in keeping with the President’s campaign promises.