The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee denounced the “fundamental lack of planning, grip or leadership at a time of national emergency” and blasted the Foreign Office for having “provided answers that were intentionally evasive and often deliberately misleading”.
“The former head of the armed forces told us that the decision to withdraw was ‘strategically illiterate and morally bankrupt,’” the committee’s report noted.
“The international withdrawal from Afghanistan has been a disaster in terms of planning, execution and consequences for the U.K.’s wider interests,” it concluded. “It undermined the security of the United Kingdom by encouraging our enemies to act against us.”
While British parliamentary proceedings are often vitriolic, nothing was being said here that was more than common sense. Meanwhile American military personnel, veterans, and families who had lost loved ones in Afghanistan were once again being denied closure and real answers.
The Foreign Affairs Committee report and the calls for the resignations of British officials are refreshing. No American official has resigned over the disaster and Democrats are doing everything possible to stalemate any serious legislative hearings into what happened.
In sharp contrast to the British parliamentary proceedings, House Democrats recently managed to hold a classified hearing over a war and subsequent defeat that ended nearly a year ago.
As Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee noted, “even though the State Department offered to have a portion of the hearing unclassified”, Democrats decided “to close it to the public and make the question-and-answer section at one of the highest levels of classification, TS/SCI.” TS/SCI means Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information.
When members of Congress are more bent on keeping a hearing closed than the State Department, it’s hard to describe that as anything more than a cover-up for political purposes.
There was no reason for a hearing billed as being about “the evolution of U.S. policy towards Afghanistan from 2017 through August 2021” to be fully classified under TS/SCI. Afghan government officials have fled, American forces are no longer on the ground, and the Taliban and its Al Qaeda allies are in charge. If there’s any intelligence still being gained from human or electronic sources, that could have been easily kept classified or left out of the hearing.
Especially when that hearing deals with decisions made between 1 and 5 years ago.
The officials doing the talking, like Molly Phee, the Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, who claimed to have “established the conditions that can transform the trajectory of the conflict,” are not superspooks, they’re Foggy Bottom bureaucrats who have failed at most things and, like Phee, promoted to Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs after the disaster in Afghanistan, just keep failing upwards until even worse things happen.
The hearings would have been an opportunity to ask Phee, Zalmay Khalilzad’s deputy, some pointed questions. House Democrats understood that keeping the hearings classified would make that a pointless exercise, allowing senior officials to recite talking points no one will hear.
Chairman Gregory Meeks claimed that the hearing had to be classified to “ensure that Members have access to the most detailed information available — including information that cannot be disclosed in an unclassified setting.” What information is that? Well, it’s classified.
Meeks could have agreed to hold multiple hearings, public and private, on this crucial issue.
Foreign Affairs Committee members pointed out that, “our committee has to date only had one open, full committee hearing with an official from the Biden administration.” Much like holding a hearing under TS/SCI classification, there’s no defensible reason except deliberate obstruction.
While the beginning of Biden’s downfall in the polls can be closely traced to the Afghan withdrawal, empty shelves, inflation, and the economic crisis have long since taken over, but as the anniversary of the withdrawal approaches, the Afghanistan stonewalling has not stopped.
Around the same time that the British parliament was having it out, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) issued a report on the collapse of the Afghan army that blamed the disastrous Taliban deal and the poorly planned withdrawal.
The report pointed to decisions such as “limiting airstrikes after the signing of the U.S.-Taliban agreement” and the entire fallacy of trying to turn the Afghan military into a “mirror image of U.S. forces” that “required a high degree of professional military sophistication and leadership” and was dependent on airpower.
SIGAR documented the fact that no one essentially knew how much military equipment was in Afghanistan, who was using it, and how much of it the Taliban have in their possession now.
Its appendix contains the withering big picture assessment that “the U.S. military has mounted four large-scale security sector assistance (SSA) efforts in the last 72 years, and three of the four have been catastrophic failures. In Vietnam and Afghanistan, the United States spent years and billions of dollars training and equipping national armies, only to see them quickly collapse in the face of far less-equipped insurgencies once U.S. logistical, equipment enabler, and air support were withdrawn.”
The explicit comparison between Vietnam and Afghanistan is important, not just as a partisan talking point, but as an analysis of what went wrong in two of the most devastating recent wars.
And how little we learned from them.
This is one of the things we need to be talking about at a congressional level before we do it all over again a decade or two from now. SIGAR has been dutifully issuing reports with such titles as “Contracting with the Enemy: DOD Has Not Fully Implemented Processes Intended to Prevent Payments to Enemies of the United States” and “Theft of Funds from Afghanistan: An Assessment of Allegations Concerning President Ghani and Former Senior Afghan Officials.”
But once SIGAR’s work is wrapped up, it will be all too easy to bury those reports.
Meanwhile the Biden administration and House Democrats are colluding to suppress any meaningful accounting or discussion of what happened in Afghanistan. Even as the House Democrats are obsessively holding hearings over January 6, they have sabotaged and obstructed public hearings about Afghanistan to protect their administration and allies.
If the British Parliament, led by the ruling party, can hold scathing no-holds barred hearings into the treasonous actions, bad decisions, and corrupt policies that went into the defeat, there’s no reason that the United States Congress can’t do the same thing. And as the August anniversary of the debacle approaches, House Democrats will have to work harder to stop the truth.