On Wednesday, House Republicans began their first hearing on the 2021 withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The House Foreign Affairs Committee, led by Chairman Mike McCaul, is hearing testimony from veterans of the Afghanistan war, some of whom were directly affected by the disastrous evacuation, in which 13 U.S. service members were killed and 20 others were injured in a terrorist attack near the Kabul airport. As many as 170 civilians were also killed.
McCaul blames President Joe Biden’s administration for the chaos at the airport, saying it had failed to properly plan for the fallout of the withdrawal. In his opening remarks, McCaul said, “What happened in Afghanistan was a systemic breakdown of the federal government at every level — and a stunning, stunning failure of leadership by the Biden administration.” He added that more than 1,000 American citizens and an estimated 200,000 Afghan allies and partners were left behind. The U.S. left behind an estimated 78,000 Afghan allies who had worked for the U.S. government and applied for special visas, according to a report from the Association of Wartime Allies.
“This was an abdication of the most basic duties of the United States government to protect Americans and leave no one behind,” McCaul continued. “I want every gold and blue star family member and every veteran out there watching this today to know that I will not rest and this committee will not rest until we determine how this happened, and hold those responsible for it accountable.”
The committee is investigating the human toll of the chaotic withdrawal. Among those testifying will be Marine Sgt. Tyler Vargas-Andrews, who was deployed with his sniper team to the Kabul airport to help with the evacuation. He was nearly killed in the bombing at Abbey Gate on Aug. 26, 2021. Vargas-Andrews lost multiple organs and two limbs and has had 44 operations since that day. Others who will appear include Scott Mann, a former Green Beret who served multiple tours in Afghanistan and founded Task Force Pineapple, which helped evacuate roughly 1,000 Afghan allies from the country, and Aiden Gunderson, a former Army combat medic who was deployed twice to Afghanistan and assisted with the evacuation.
Several GOP-led committees, including the House Armed Services and Oversight panels, are investigating the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. But the Foreign Affairs Committee wants to draw attention to the human toll of the chaotic withdrawal. The hearing will likely intensify the ongoing political debate about the withdrawal and who is responsible for the chaos that ensued.