House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Alabama, protested the Department of Defense After Action Review (AAR) on the 2021 Afghanistan withdrawal in a letter sent to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on June 13, according to a Fox News report endorsed by Rogers.
Rogers’ unpublished letter rejects the AAR as untrue, inconsistent, and overly redacted. Austin provided the AAR to the House Armed Services Committee and other Congressional leaders in April.
”Sadly, your memorandum does not accept responsibility, and propounds outright untruths, related to the Biden Administration’s actions and inactions in failing to secure a safe and orderly withdrawal of troops and related Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation,” Rogers said in the letter. “An honest appraisal of the Biden Administration’s involvement in implementing the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan has still not occurred.”
Rogers also said sections included in the AAR table of contents are omitted entirely and redactions are not explained. He requested that a new version of the report be sent to the committee by July 7.
“The purpose of the AAR was to examine decision points, constraints, and assumptions in order to contribute toward a whole-of-government effort to learn, improve, and incorporate lessons learned into our response to future crises. The AAR provided the Department with key insights on issues like planning, interagency coordination, and communication with allies and partners,” Austin said. “The Department is committed to working with Congress and our partners across government to continue identifying the lessons learned from this process and turning them into meaningful action.”
The Department of State also sent their independent AAR of the Afghanistan withdrawal to relevant congressional committees. Both reviews remain classified, despite House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, calling for the State department AAR to be released.
“There is a strong public interest in the Department sharing the results of its After-Action Review to the fullest extent possible,” McCaul said. “Of the portions of the document marked ‘Secret,’ it is often unclear as to why they were classified as such, and whether they even genuinely merit classification or are merely politically sensitive or embarrassing.”
The White House did publish a 12-page outline of their review. It points to “difficult realities” left by the Trump administration, but it generally supports the Biden administration’s approach to the withdrawal, saying the decision and conduct put America on a “safer and stronger footing.”