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McCaul calls Kirby's comments on Afghanistan withdrawal 'disgraceful and insulting'

The GOP chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday blasted the White House for dismissing the idea that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was chaotic and shifting blame on the Trump administration for creating unfavorable conditions for the pullout.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), whose committee is leading a probe of the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, ripped John Kirby, a White House spokesperson on national security issues, for his comments earlier in the day.

“John Kirby’s comments during today’s White House press briefing were disgraceful and insulting. President Biden made the decision to withdraw and even picked the exact date; he is responsible for the massive failures in planning and execution,” McCaul said in a statement.

Kirby spoke to reporters shortly after the Pentagon and State Department provided classified reviews of the decision-making process around the withdrawal. At the same time, the White House released its own 12-page outline that largely pinned the blame for the challenges around the withdrawal on the Trump administration, while acknowledging there were lessons to be applied to future operations.

McCaul, who is leading a congressional delegation to Taiwan, said he is looking forward to reviewing the report and urged the administration to declassify as much as possible for the public.

“Finally, Congress must be given access to the full and complete record of documents from the withdrawal in order to get the answers on why the withdrawal was such a disaster,” he said.

The August 2021 withdrawal has drawn intense criticism from Republicans: a suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State at Abbey Gate at the Kabul airport killed 13 U.S. troops and 170 Afghans, and images circulated of evacuation planes taking off as citizens clung to the wheels.

Kirby had said Biden takes responsibility for the operation as commander-in-chief, but took issue with reporters who tried to characterize the withdrawal as chaotic or messy.

“For all this talk of chaos, I just didn’t see it. Not from my perch,” said Kirby, who was Pentagon press secretary at the time of the withdrawal.

“At one point during the evacuation there was an aircraft taking off full of people, Americans and Afghans alike, every 48 minutes,” Kirby said. “And not one single mission was missed. So, I’m sorry, I just don’t buy the whole argument of chaos. It was tough in the first few hours, you would expect it to be.”

Kirby argued the context of what Biden had inherited when he took office was critical when assessing the success of the withdrawal as he rattled off a series of actions taken by the Trump White House in Afghanistan.

“He didn’t negotiate with the Taliban,” Kirby said of Biden. “He didn’t invite the Taliban to Camp David. He didn’t release 5,000 prisoners. He didn’t reduce force levels in Afghanistan to 2,500, and he didn’t have an arrangement with the Taliban that they wouldn’t attack our troops. He came in with a certain set of circumstances he had no ability to change, he had to deal with it based on what he inherited.”

Asked by a Fox News reporter how Kirby can say the administration is proud of the work it did during the August 2021 withdrawal, the admiral pointed to the nearly 125,000 people who were safely evacuated and the ability of U.S. troops to quickly and effectively set up operations at the previously abandoned airport in Kabul.

“Does that mean everything went perfect? Of course not,” Kirby said. “Nobody is saying that everything was perfect, but there’s a lot that went right, and a lot of Afghans are now living better lives in this country and other countries around the world because of the sacrifices and the work of so many American government officials.”

Source: The Hill

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