Today, Congressman Blake Moore (R-UT) introduced the Afghanistan Accountability Act. After nearly 20 years of continuous deployment, the sacrifice of over 2,000 American lives, and $2 trillion dollars in taxpayer money, the American people deserve to know what went wrong in the days and months leading up to the Biden administration’s withdrawal. The Afghanistan Accountability Act is a crucial first step in identifying the breakdown between the intelligence community, Department of Defense leadership, and administration officials that facilitated this humanitarian and geopolitical crisis.
“I am heartbroken by the stories coming from Afghanistan as my staff and I scramble to help as many U.S. citizens and eligible Afghan families as possible. When President Biden first announced his Afghanistan withdrawal in April, I voiced grave concern over the lack of a conditions-based strategy,” said Congressman Blake Moore. “The President’s decision to pursue a September 11th deadline regardless of the safety of U.S. citizens and Afghan individuals who supported U.S. efforts was theatrical and disturbing. Without a responsible exit plan, the Taliban eroded decades of progress in just 4 months. I am introducing the Afghanistan Accountability Act to get answers for my constituents and ensure that an absence of presidential leadership on this scale will never happen again.”
The President and senior U.S. officials did not appear to have the intelligence and information necessary to predict the speed of Afghanistan’s collapse and the danger to U.S. citizens and partners in the context of a hasty withdrawal. On June 7, 2021, in congressional testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the State Department’s fiscal year 2022 budget request, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stated, “We are not withdrawing, we are staying, the embassy is staying, our programs are staying, we are working to make sure other partners stay, we are building all of that up…So, I would not necessarily equate the departure of forces in July, August, or by early September with some kind of immediate deterioration in the situation.”
On June 17, 2021, in congressional testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley stated, “I don’t see Saigon 1975 in Afghanistan. The Taliban just aren’t the North Vietnamese Army. It’s not that kind of situation.” On July 8, 2021, President Joe Biden stated during remarks on the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan that “We will stand with you just as you stood with us.” He further stated, “There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy in the — of the United States from Afghanistan.” When pressed on the intelligence community assessing that the Afghan government will likely collapse, President Biden stated, “That is not true. They did not — they didn’t — did not reach that conclusion.”
It is clear that an after-action report on the intelligence provided to the President and national security officials is necessary to learn how the U.S. might have enhanced intelligence direction, collection, processing, exploitation, and dissemination as circumstances in Afghanistan changed in response to the withdrawal of United States forces.
The bill requires an extensive report on the effectiveness and analytic integrity of the intelligence and information provided to the President from January to August 2021 as the administration planned, announced, and implemented the withdrawal of U.S. Armed Forces from Afghanistan. The report would require an assessment of how intelligence collection and dissemination relating to the capabilities of the Afghan Security Forces and Taliban and the effects of a withdrawal on the safety of U.S. troops and civilians, Afghans, and the citizens of other countries who aided or supported the U.S. government; updates on the current terrorist threat to the United States from the Taliban and other terrorist groups operating from Afghanistan; risks to U.S. military and civilian personnel assisting with evacuation efforts; assessment of the vehicles and equipment captured by the Taliban; evaluations of the specific planning for the withdrawal including details regarding the decision to close bases and the evacuation of U.S. embassy personnel to the airport; an assessment on the efficacy of negotiating with the Taliban while the Taliban pursued a military strategy; and an assessment of the objectives and associated activities of regional actors following the U.S. military withdrawal. The legislation additionally requires an evaluation from the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, in coordination with the DOD and CIA Inspectors General, on the quality and reliability of the sources, methodology, and analytic judgments behind the intelligence products provided to the President.
The bill requires the Secretary of State to submit a detailed report on whether the Taliban satisfies the criteria for designation as a foreign terrorist organization and urges sanctions on the Taliban under Executive Order 13224. In addition, the Afghanistan Accountability Act sanctions Taliban officials and others who have engaged in human rights abuses, undermined democratic processes, threatened stability, engaged in actions to limit freedom of expression and assembly, particularly for women, or provided material support to the Taliban. The bill requires regular reporting on human rights violations by the Taliban against U.S. citizens and their family members and Afghan individuals and their family members who assisted United States military operations, diplomatic operations or programming, or development and human rights activities.