President Joe Biden waived a legal mandate in June that would have forced him to provide Congress with a detailed report about his plan to withdraw the American military from Afghanistan before he acted.
The law, which was passed as part of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, forbids the Defense Department from using its funds to withdraw troops from Afghanistan without first providing lawmakers with a report that detailed how a withdrawal would affect the “ongoing U.S. counter-terrorism mission against the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and associated forces; the risk to U.S. personnel in Afghanistan; and the risk for the expansion of existing or the formation of new international terrorist safe havens inside Afghanistan.”
Defense officials also are required by the law to provide Congress with details on “the threat posed by the Taliban and other terrorist organizations in Afghanistan” and “the capacity of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to effectively prevent or defend against attacks by the Taliban.”
However, Biden waived this mandate in June, citing a national security exemption, according to the Washington Free Beacon.
“Consistent with section 1215(d) of the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (Public Law 116-283), I have determined that a waiver of the limitation under subsection 1215(a) is important to the national security interests of the United States,” Biden wrote in a June 8 letter to Congress.
He then assured lawmakers that his withdrawal would be conducted “responsibly, deliberately, and safely, in full coordination with our allies and partners.”
Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-NY, said this mandate should never have been waived and that Biden must be held accountable for withholding vital information from Congress and acting unilaterally.
“It is increasingly clear that President Biden never had a plan in place to safely withdraw from Afghanistan, so it is no surprise he never shared it with Congress like the law requires,” Tenney, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
Congressional leadership has vowed to investigate Biden’s withdrawal, and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ—who now occupies Biden’s former role as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—hinted that the decision to waive the National Defense Authorization Act mandate would be a part of that investigation.
“Congress was told repeatedly that the Afghan Defense and Security Forces were up to the task, that it had the troops, equipment and willingness to fight,” he said in a statement.
“To see this army dissolve so quickly after billions of dollars in U.S. support is astounding. The American and Afghan people clearly have not been told the truth about [Afghan security forces’] capacity and deserve answers.”