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Thune, Risch Lead Effort to Release Afghanistan Dissent Cable

Senators’ bill would release a public version of State Department cable warning of Afghanistan collapse

February 17, 2022

 U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today introduced a bill to require the U.S. State Department to release a public, unclassified version of the July 13, 2021, internal dissent channel cable that reportedly warned of the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s ability to capture Kabul. The bill would also require the State Department to provide Congress with a classified version of the dissent cable, removing any personally identifiable information of the senders. 

“Transparency is an inherent component of accountability, and the American people deserve to have an unvarnished look into the decision-making process – and the warnings that went ignored – in the lead-up to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan,” said Thune. “Recent reports, including the Army’s investigation into the terrorist attack that claimed the lives of 13 servicemembers during the chaotic evacuation of Kabul, has confirmed the crisis of leadership that Americans saw unfold nearly in real time. I thank Sen. Risch, who has led the effort to hold the Biden administration accountable on this issue, for partnering with me on this bill so we can shed some light on this horrific and botched withdrawal.” 

“There is a growing body of evidence that this administration dismissed dire reports from diplomats and military officers on the ground in Afghanistan that predicted a rapid Taliban advance and the need to drastically accelerate evacuation efforts,” said Risch. “Despite repeated requests, the State Department has refused to provide the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with a copy of the July 13 dissent cable and a description of changes the secretary made as a result. The administration’s haphazard exit from Afghanistan has tarnished American credibility, cost American lives, and has set back American efforts to ensure Afghanistan never again serves as a platform for attacks against the United States. The American people deserve transparency.” 

This legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

The July 13 dissent cable reportedly warned the Biden administration of the mounting deterioration of Afghanistan’s security and the need to immediately begin evacuations. Regrettably, it was apparently met with inaction, evidenced by the National Security Council Deputies Committee’s decision to delay its first meeting to discuss evacuating Afghanistan until a full month after the dissent cable was sent. The flagrant shortcomings of the Biden administration’s management of the United States’ exit from Afghanistan are further detailed in Ranking Member Risch’s report entitled “Left Behind: A Brief Assessment of the Biden Administration’s Strategic Failures during the Afghanistan Evacuation” and investigations conducted by U.S. Central Command

According to the State Department, the dissent channel “is a serious policy channel reserved only for consideration of responsible dissenting and alternative views on substantive foreign policy issues that cannot be communicated in a full and timely manner through regular operating channels or procedures,” which underscores the urgent nature of the warnings sent by U.S. diplomats. The State Department cable addressed by this legislation was first reported on August 19, 2021.