May 17, 2023 - Politics & Policy

House Foreign Affairs leaders to gain access to Afghanistan cable

Representative Michael McCaul, a Republican from Texas, speaks during a news conference. Photo: Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

After months of building pressure from Congress, the State Department will provide House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Ranking Member Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) access to an internal cable about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Why it matters: The news comes the same day McCaul scheduled a markup vote on an effort to hold Secretary Antony Blinken in contempt of Congress for not complying with a subpoena for the memo.

  • McCaul's Afghanistan investigation has zeroed in on a July 2021 dissent memo that reportedly warned about the potential fall of Kabul to the Taliban if troops withdrew.
  • After a subpoena, multiple extended deadlines and threats of legal action, McCaul and Meeks will be able to view the document in person with names redacted. The timing is still unclear.
  • State has already briefed members of Congress about the cable and provided summaries, but has not yet granted access to the cable itself.

What they're saying: State is willing to provide the access "[d]espite the materially increased risk that additional disclosures of the Dissent Channel cable could further deter Department employees from using the Dissent Channel," according to a Wednesday letter from State to McCaul, first obtained by Punchbowl.

  • "Chairman McCaul himself has said that this is what he's interested in, and so it is our sincere hope that our offer here will sufficiently satisfy their request for information," Department of State spokesperson Vedant Patel said in a Wednesday briefing.
  • The State Department letter adds that the offer comes "with the understanding that the Committee would suspend possible enforcement actions related to the Committee’s subpoena."
  • The Dissent Channel enables diplomats to raise concerns about foreign policy.

The big picture: House Republicans' investigation into Afghanistan has widely been considered one of the most promising probes this Congress, as members of both parties have criticized the U.S. handling of the withdrawal.

  • McCaul has also called on Blinken to declassify and make public a sensitive, 87-page review of the U.S. withdrawal — claiming that the White House's summary was in contradiction to some of the information in the report.
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