Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
A high-level and confidential Biden Administration briefing on Afghanistan turned contentious Thursday as a group of lawmakers, both Republican and Democrat, left in anger.
CNN, which cited three sources who each confirmed the story, reports the blowup occurred after officials from the State Department, Pentagon, Department of Homeland Security, and Office of the Director of National Security did not provide answers to “basic” questions.
Key among the lawmakers’ concerns was an accounting for the exact number of Americans still in Afghanistan, a number that State Department officials were unable to provide. The State Department has consistently estimated the number of Americans in Afghanistan is 100 but, as CNN reported, the State Department continued to use this estimate even after about 75 American citizens were extracted from the country.
According to one of CNN’s sources, at least some Democrats exited the meeting not out of anger over Afghanistan, but frustration that some Republican lawmakers were not wearing a mask.
Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has been ardent in his criticism of the Biden Administration’s handling of the evacuation.
McCaul on Thursday wrote a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken in which the congressman requested more and specific details:
Over the last month, I have been contacted by hundreds of Texans who are desperately trying to get friends and family members safely out of the country. While we have been able to help some, many are trapped. There are reports of several hundred people, including American citizens, who have been waiting over a week for chartered flights to take off from Mazar-i-Sharif airport.”
McCaul indicated that some of the Americans still trapped are in the military and said he has been contacted by Texans whose military family members are still in the country.
“They have been working night and day to safely evacuate their family members,” McCaul wrote. “But their efforts so far have not been successful. These brave men and women have volunteered to risk their lives to protect our country. Yet, now, when they need us the most, the federal government has turned our backs on them. If we abandon the family members of our service men and women in Afghanistan, they will certainly be slaughtered by the Taliban.”
Blinken has not yet responded via public comment or social media to McCaul’s letter.
The State Department offered no clarification to the public, telling CNN through a spokesperson “as a general matter, we do not comment on communications with Congress, especially those conducted in a classified setting.”
As of this writing, the Department of State’s press release page does not contain an official statement. Likewise, the Department of Defense’s press release and speeches pages and those of the Office of the Director of National Security contain no information regarding the lawmakers’ sudden departure.