Reported by PHIL SHIVER | September 23, 2021
Multiple lawmakers from both parties “angrily stormed out” of a classified briefing on Afghanistan this week after Biden administration officials failed to answer simple questions about its ongoing evacuation efforts, CNN reported. Citing three anonymous sources, the network said that both Republican and Democratic members of Congress “grew frustrated” after officials from the State Department, Pentagon, Department of Homeland Security, and Office of the Director of National Security “failed to answer their basic questions.”
The walkout reportedly occurred during a Wednesday morning briefing for members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Though CNN did not specify the exact questioning, the report seemed to note the frustration revolved around the administration’s failure to offer precise information regarding the number of American citizens who still remain in Afghanistan following the U.S. military’s official withdrawal last month.
A day after the last U.S. plane departed Afghanistan on Aug. 30, President Biden said in a speech to the American public that “about 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan with some intention to leave.” Since then, the administration has continued to say that roughly 100 Americans still remain in the now Taliban-controlled country.
But some lawmakers said “they do not understand that accounting, given the department has said that they evacuated more than 75 Americans from Afghanistan through evacuation efforts in the last few weeks,” CNN reported.
In any case, the administration has apparently been vague and imprecise with its information both in public addresses and in private meetings with lawmakers.
Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, confirmed to CNN’s Jake Tapper on Wednesday that “everybody walked out” of the intelligence briefing earlier that day. He added that either the administration is “not being transparent” or officials don’t “know the answer to that question” regarding the number of Americans still stranded.
“The fact is, I believe there’s still hundreds of Americans still left behind enemy lines. The majority of the interpreters that you and I talked about for so long did not get out,” McCaul said. “And now we’re getting reports of executions, beheadings of their families and themselves, horrific stories.”
“I don’t think they know all the answers, quite honestly,” he declared of the administration.
In response to a request for comment, a State Department spokesperson told CNN that “as a general matter, we do not comment on communications with Congress, especially those conducted in a classified setting.”