Biden faces Republican probe into US troops' withdrawal from Afghanistan

By TN Ashok

Washington, Feb 18 (IANS): US President Joe Biden seems to be the "Man on Fire" as he faces a Republican probe into the hasty withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan in August 2021 which led to the Taliban taking over Kabul and forcing the country's former leader Ashfraf Ghani to flee amid utter chaos and panic amongst the people as anarchy set in.

The new Republican majority in the House of Representatives has demanded information from the heads of the Defence and State Departments among others on the rapid troop withdrawal and the situation that ensued to launch a probe against the Biden administration for losing a valuable ally in the region and causing humanitarian problems to the citizens.

The House Oversight Committee on Friday sent letters to top Biden administration officials demanding information about the chaotic withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan in 2021.

"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," committee Chairman James Comer said in a statement.

"The American people deserve answers and the Biden administration's ongoing obstruction of this investigation is unacceptable," he was quoted by the media as saying.

The problem here is that it's not the Biden administration that took the decision on withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. His predecessor Donald Trump took the decision to withdraw the troops totally under pressure from public opinion that was building up since the draft of 18 year olds to fight a war in Iraq from distraught families who lost their young ones in a battle which served no interests to them. It was domestic politics that overruled geopolitics of the region.

Biden merely followed Trump's decision to withdraw the troops but the hasty manner in which troops were withdrawn was perhaps a serious error as the US defence brass or the intelligence agencies did not anticipate the Taliban would regroup and overtake the city even so rapidly even as the US marines were being withdrawn, reports said.

Engaging US marines outside of the United States in the Asian region has always been a bone of contention between the government, the defence ministry and the people of America as citizens have felt it was highly improper to meddle in the internal affairs of another country for one and for another sending American troops to fight out the battles for the local people in other continents was not a concern of the US government.

There has been much public outcry not just in the US but also NATO allies in keeping troops in Afghanistan in a war not of their concern and the aftermath of the Taliban takeover has caused much consternation among politicians in not just US but also Europe. Like losing a base in the region. Pakistan is not a trusted ally as it harbours terrorists and there is a home grown Taliban in Pakistan causing much trouble to the Muslim state.

Comer issued the statement as he and the chairs of several subcommittees sent letters demanding records, documents and communications about the withdrawal to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and US Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power.

Twenty years of US engagement in Afghanistan after the Soviet Union quit, the Hezbollah and the Taliban, whom the US intelligence armed to oust the Russian forces, turned against the US itself like the Frankenstein's Monster. US forces pulled out in August 2021. The mass evacuation of scared people and thousands of Americans and Afghan allies turned ugly as terrorists overran the airport that left 13 service members and hundreds of civilians dead, media reports said.

"US servicemen and women lost their lives, Americans were abandoned, taxpayer dollars are unaccounted for, the Taliban gained access to military equipment, progress for Afghan women was derailed, and the entire area is now under hostile Taliban control," Comer said.

"Every relevant department and agency should be prepared to cooperate and provide all requested information."

Comer complained that House Democrats never held a hearing on the withdrawal when they controlled the committee, although the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the topic in September of 2021 that had testimonies from Austin and Milley.

Blinken testified about the withdrawal before the House Foreign Services Committee, and multiple Senate committees held hearings as well.

Milley has gone on record to admit that the US was caught off-guard by the swift fall of the US-backed Afghan government. "We absolutely missed the rapid, 11-day collapse of the Afghan military and the Afghan government," he said.

A US State Department spokesperson said it "does not comment on Congressional correspondence", but "is committed to working with Congressional committees with jurisdiction over US foreign policy to accommodate their need for information to help them conduct oversight for their legitimate legislative purposes".

The spokesperson claimed 150 briefings to lawmakers and staff on Afghanistan policy since the withdrawal from the strife torn country.

Nearly 2,500 service members and 3,800 US contractors were killed over the span of the nearly 20-year war, reports said.



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Title: Biden faces Republican probe into US troops' withdrawal from Afghanistan

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