The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has threatened to punish Secretary of State Antony Blinken with contempt of Congress if he does not release a secret cable that reportedly warns that Kabul will collapse shortly after the US withdraws from Afghanistan in August 2021 could collapse.
The letter escalates a months-long standoff between the House committee and the Biden administration, which has so far been unwilling to turn the document over to Congress. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, on Monday released a May 5 letter requesting the Department to provide Congress with an undredacted version of the July 13, 2021 cable and the State Department’s official response.
McCaul threatened Blinken with contempt of Congress and possible civil litigation if he fails to comply with the committee’s request by 6 p.m. May 11 or provide a legal basis for withholding the document.
“The deviant telegram and the official response are critical and essential to the committee’s investigation into the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan,” McCaul wrote in his letter.
State Department officials can use the “contradiction channel“Communicating dissenting foreign policy views with senior officials. A Article in the Wall Street Journal said the cable warned that the Taliban could take control of Kabul soon after US troops withdraw from Afghanistan.
In late March, the committee issued a subpoena to Blinken over the cable. On April 27, the State Department briefed the committee on the contents of the cable and its official response. The department also provided Congress with a one-page summary of the dissident cable, as well as a summary of the official response, which McCaul’s letter said was received in just under a page. The letter adds that the actual cable is four pages long.
“It is inherently problematic for the Department, the subject of the Committee’s investigation, to withhold important material evidence and to replace the original documents with their own abbreviated characterizations of that evidence,” McCaul wrote in his letter.
He claimed that State Department officials conducting the briefing were “unwilling or unable” to answer several of the committee’s questions on the matter.
In a statement, a State Department spokesman said the committee’s actions were “unnecessary and unproductive” because the panel received a secret briefing and summary of the cable.
“We will continue to respond to appropriate oversight requests and provide Congress with the information it needs to do its job while protecting the ability of State Department employees to do theirs,” the spokesman said.
The administration has previously raised concerns that releasing the cable could jeopardize the identities of the cable’s signers.
The cable is part of McCaul’s investigation withdrawal from Afghanistan, in which 13 US soldiers were killed at Kabul airport. Last month, the Biden administration released a Summary his assessment of the withdrawal from Afghanistan and largely blamed the Trump administration for the chaos that was unfolding.