GOP Raising New Questions Over Pentagon’s Afghanistan Actions

The House GOP majority is driving a new investigation into the turbulent and lethal events surrounding the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal. The focus is on uncovering the intricate details regarding the command hierarchy during the catastrophic event at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA).

On Thursday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) sent a letter to Joe Biden’s Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley. They request comprehensive details concerning the events leading to the August 26, 2021, terror attack. This attack cost 13 American soldiers their lives. In addition, it injured 45 Americans and 170 Afghan civilians, a tragedy still fresh in our collective consciousness.

Marine Sergeant Tyler Vargas-Andrews, one of the brave men severely wounded in the terror attack, revealed a disturbing account during his testimony at the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) hearing on March 8, 2023. Sergeant Vargas-Andrews and his sniper team believed they had spotted the suicide bomber earlier on the day of the attack. However, decisive action that could have been taken to neutralize the threat was stalled due to an uncertain command hierarchy.

Sergeant Vargas-Andrews expressed his disappointment: “Plain and simple, we were ignored. Our expertise was disregarded – no one was held accountable for our safety.”

This clear communication gap and lack of decision-making authority are the centerpieces of the new probe. As stated by Chairmen McCaul and Rogers, “Battlefield decisions are often made in a cloud, but in honor of the lives lost and those still living following that terrible day, it is incumbent we learn whether events were avoidable and if uncertain procedures, broken lines of communication, or worse, contributed to the lack of engagement.”

McCaul and Rogers’ inquiries aim to extract a detailed description of the events that led to the suicide bombing, focusing on the reaction to Sergeant Vargas-Andrews’ sniper team’s request for engagement authority. Their request is comprehensive, extending to documents, videos, audio, photographs, and any intelligence products and messages from the Department of Defense (DoD) related to the incident.

The probe will also delve into the “Department of Defense Afghanistan After Action Review: January 2020–August 2021” (AAR) and the November 8, 2022, Memorandum for the Record from Secretary Austin (MFR), demanding omitted footnotes and interview transcripts produced during the AAR.

This investigation is finally heading in the right direction, analyzing how the Afghanistan withdrawal played out on the ground. House Republicans must ensure transparency and accountability from the Pentagon. The probe’s results could shed light on whether the events of that fateful day were avoidable and, if so, bring about changes that ensure such an incident never happens again.

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