GOP-led House panel to question Psaki on failures of Afghanistan withdrawal this month

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Former White House press secretary Jen Psaki will appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee for a transcribed interview about the Biden administration’s pullout from Afghanistan in August 2021, a spokesperson for the Republican Majority of the committee confirmed to The Hill.

Psaki, who now hosts an MSNBC show, is expected to sit for the interview on July 26. She volunteered to speak to the committee after receiving approval from the White House.

Rachel Cotton, deputy counsel to the president, responded to the committee that the White House agreed to an “extraordinary accommodation” in authorizing Psaki’s interview, but called for her to be accompanied by personal counsel and the White House Counsel’s Office.  

Her appearance to sit before the committee was first reported by Axios.  

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) has sought Psaki’s testimony for nine months as part of a wide-ranging probe into the Biden administration’s exit from Afghanistan that ended America’s nearly two-decade war in the country.

U.S. plans to draw down its military operation in Afghanistan in August 2021 spiraled into a chaos amid a rapid takeover by the Taliban and the collapse of the American-backed Afghan government in Kabul. 

The U.S. evacuated its diplomatic staff and undertook a massive airlift for more than 120,000 people, the majority vulnerable Afghans fleeing the threat of violence, retribution and repression under Taliban rule. 

The American exit was marred by images of people clinging and falling from departing airplanes, and a suicide bombing carried out by the Islamic State that killed 13 American service members and 170 Afghans, and wounded scores of others. 

McCaul made investigating the Biden administration’s exit from Afghanistan a priority task when he took over the chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in January 2023. 

The Biden administration, at the time of the pullout, said it had not anticipated that the U.S.-backed government in Kabul and U.S.-trained and supplied Afghan military would disappear in the face of the Taliban’s offensive. The administration has defended its operation as successful for managing the evacuation of more than 120,000 people.

Republicans argue the manner of the pullout emboldened America’s enemies and have pushed for President Biden and his most senior aides to be held accountable for the failures that resulted in what was two-weeks of tumult. 

In August 2022, McCaul published an interim report on the investigation as ranking member of the committee, titled “‘A Strategic Failure’:  Assessing the Administration’s Afghanistan Withdrawal.”  

The report did not deliver any smoking guns, but focused on the lack of planning leading up to the withdrawal, arguing a series of missteps and errors complicated what was eventually a deadly evacuation. 

The committee has reviewed 10,000 documents and conducted 17 transcribed interviews with U.S. officials. It also conducted hearings with Biden’s senior staff, including former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, and Commander of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Frank McKenzie.

The committee has said it will seek to question Psaki on the disconnect between the private conversations and assessments among the president’s senior staff and the explanations and arguments presented from the White House press podium. 

McCaul, in a letter to Psaki’s lawyer requesting her appearance before the committee, said her testimony will provide “key insights into the planning and decision-making regarding the Afghanistan withdrawal, the rapid Taliban takeover, and the evacuation of American citizens and Afghan allies.”

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