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September 23, 2021

Inhofe Formally Requests Information on U.S. Withdrawal From Afghanistan From Secretary of Defense Austin

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin requesting additional information related to the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

“Ahead of Secretary Austin, General Milley and General McKenzie appearing before the committee next week, I want to lay out the information I believe the committee needs to conduct robust, methodical oversight of the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan,” Inhofe said. “This information will inform us as we hold further hearings on the drawdown and how the United States will conduct counterterrorism in the future. We need a full accounting of every factor and decision that led us to where we are today and a real plan for defending America moving forward. I’ve heard all of my colleagues on the committee ask for this information, and Congress, our service members, and the American people deserve to see these responses.”

In the letter, Inhofe requests information related to: the August 26 attack on the Kabul Airport that killed 13 U.S. service members; U.S. strikes conducted on August 27 and 29; efforts to evacuate civilians from the country; U.S. military equipment and materiel left behind; and the administration’s future counterterrorism plans.

The letter comes ahead of an open hearing on Tuesday, September 28, at which Secretary Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley and U.S. Central Command Commander General Kenneth McKenzie will testify, and after the committee held two classified briefings with military and civilian leaders, including former U.S. Forces-Afghanistan Commander Scott Austin Miller on September 14 and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl on September 21.

The full text of the letter is here.

Dear Secretary Austin,

I am looking forward to your testimony on Afghanistan before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, September 28, 2021. To further the Committee’s oversight of the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan, please submit the following information to the Committee not later than Friday, October 8, 2021:

1. Information about any investigation or inquiry into the August 26, 2021, Kabul Airport attack in which 13 American service members were killed. Please include the name and position of the authority directing any such investigation or inquiry, the date on which the investigation or inquiry was initiated, the objectives or charter and scope of each such investigation or inquiry, and the estimated timeline for the completion of each.

2. A summary of any and all intelligence bearing on any threat, generalized or specific to U.S. forces and/or operations in the vicinity of Hamid Karzai International Airport available prior to the August 26, 2021, attack on American service members.

3. A summary of any and all Department of Defense communications discussing or requesting authority to strike targets in the vicinity of Hamid Karzai International Airport, as well as a summary of any and all communications referencing such discussions or requests.

4. A copy of any and all Department of Defense or intelligence community records or information, in any form, identifying the specific ISIS-K cell and ISIS-K agent, affiliate, or operative (i.e. the suicide bomber) that executed the detonation of the improvised explosive device (SBIED) on August 26, 2021; the entirety of any other Department of Defense or intelligence community dossier or history pertaining to such cell and person, regardless of when generated; and any Department of Defense or intelligence community record or information bearing on a request, decision, or action to target the cell or person.

5. A copy of any and all Department of Defense or intelligence community record or information, in any form, identifying the specific ISIS-K agent, affiliate, or operative targeted in Nangarhar Province on August 27, 2021.

6. A complete accounting of the type and number of Department of Defense assets employed in the conduct of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and strike missions in Afghanistan on August 27, 2021, and on August 29, 2021, including the location from which any aircraft, manned or unmanned, originated for each ISR or strike mission conducted on or between August 26, 2021 and August 30, 2021.

7. A complete accounting of Department of Defense support provided to the effort to evacuate civilian persons from Afghanistan on or between August 14, 2021, and August 31, 2021, including:

a.      A detailed description of the U.S. military task force responsible for developing and taking action against ISIS-K cells, affiliates, agents, or operatives that were suspected of having the intention to target Kabul International Airport between August 14, 2021, and August 31, 2021;  

b.      Copies of all Execute Orders issued on or between April 14, 2021, and August 31, 2021, and approved by or for the Secretary of Defense or the commander of a combatant command pertaining to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and/or related evacuation operations;

c.       An accounting of all requests for assistance, whether written or verbal, that the Department of Defense received and fulfilled from other U.S. departments and agencies on or between April 14, 2021, and August 31, 2021, pertaining to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and/or related evacuation operations, including any requests for assistance pertaining to the repatriation of U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, U.S. personnel who possess dual citizenship, and Afghan nationals. The accounting should indicate when and by whom any such request was approved, if approved, and the nature of DOD support provided pursuant to such approval;

d.      An accounting of how many persons the Department of Defense or other entities acting on behalf or in concert with the Department of Defense transported out of Afghanistan on or between August 1, 2021 and August 31, 2021, broken down by category, as follows: U.S. military personnel, U.S. defense contractor employees, U.S. diplomatic personnel, other U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, Afghan special immigrant visa (SIV) recipients, Afghan SIV applicants, Afghan SIV candidates who had not yet applied, Afghans with P1 refugee status, Afghans with P2 refugee status, other Afghan nationals determined to be at-risk, and others, to the extent possible, additionally broken down by the primary visa-holder or P1/P2 individual and family members of the Afghans previously specified in this paragraph;

e.       A list of each U.S. and foreign location to which Afghan nationals and their families were evacuated, with an accounting of how many evacuees are currently being housed at each such location and a summary of the specific services provided to evacuees at each location, the plan to consolidate all remaining evacuees to one location as well as challenges encountered at each location; and

f.        A summary of any requests for forces made by U.S. Central Command after July 12, 2021, for or in support of any operation pertaining to Afghanistan.

8. An accounting of all U.S. military equipment and materiel, including munitions and armaments, that were not removed from Afghanistan by August 31, 2021, including: the type and value of any equipment or materiel, including munitions and armaments destroyed or demilitarized “in place” prior to that date; the type and value of equipment or materiel, including munitions and armaments, abandoned “in place” prior to that date; and the disposition and plan for the equipment that has not been destroyed. The accounting should include identification of equipment or material that was in possession of the United States and separate estimates of the equipment or material that was transferred to and in possession of the Afghan government prior to the takeover of the government by the Taliban.

9. The following materials providing insight into the overarching plan for counterterrorism activities going forward:

a.      A detailed description of any operational plan developed by the Department of Defense for future “over-the-horizon” counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan including the command and control organizational structure;

b.      A detailed description of the authorities and policy guidance that would be applied to the conduct of future counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan;

c.       The name and duty position of each Department of Defense officer or employee who holds or has been delegated target engagement authority for direct action operations in Afghanistan;

d.      A list of the forces assigned or allocated to U.S. Central Command for counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan effective September 20, 2021, a summary of the capabilities of each such force as well as their basing; and

e.       The current disposition and deployment plan for CVN-76, the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, and other naval assets deployed to support operations in Afghanistan.

10.  A summary of Department of Defense outreach and engagement with regional nations, including Pakistan, Russia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kygyzstan, Iran and China regarding future efforts to counter terrorist organizations and persons and to repatriate American citizens, American permanent residents, and Afghans who seek to depart Afghanistan.

11.  A high-level summary of all formal investigations related to Afghanistan currently underway including an estimate of the timeline for completion of such investigations.

12. A summary of any changes in threat assessments in U.S. Central Command and in theaters outside of U.S. Central Command, as a result of the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan.

I ask that this information be submitted to the Committee on a rolling basis as it becomes available, in an unclassified form where possible and in a classified form where necessary. I appreciate your assistance in facilitating this request. Again, thank you in advance for agreeing to testify before the Committee.


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