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White House to issue memo on Afghanistan defending US withdrawal

The White House plans to circulate a new memo on Capitol Hill defending President Biden’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and saying the move bolstered national security by freeing up critical military and intelligence operatives, according to a copy of the document obtained by Axios.

Why is this important: The memo comes as many Washington residents are still seeking answers about the flawed evacuation. Republicans, in particular, plan to use the first anniversary to re-examine the failures that led to the Afghan capital’s rapid fall to the Taliban.

Driving the news: The memo was written by National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson in part to try to pre-empt criticism from Republicans who are releasing an interim report on Sunday outlining what they see as the failures of preparations for administration for evacuation.

  • The GOP report, led by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), a high-ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and likely panel chairman if Republicans regain a majority next year, says the Biden administration left key decisions on how to evacuate civilians from Kabul until the final hours before the city fell to the Taliban.
  • “There was a complete lack and failure of planning. There was no plan and no plan was executed,” McCaul said on “Face the Nation” on CBS Sunday morning.

Details: The memo argues that the GOP report is ‘riddled with misrepresentations’ and blames former President Trump for reaching a 2020 deal with the Taliban – known as the ‘Doha Accord’ – for evacuate the United States from the area by May 2021.

  • The White House argues that top intelligence professionals felt that the United States “should eventually send After American troops in danger just to keep the stalemate in a 20-year war from escalating,” and Biden refused to do so.
  • The White House is also touting the recent strike that killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri as proof that the United States does not need a permanent troop presence to defend against terrorism.

The bottom line: The divergent documents represent the split screen that we will see in the coming days of how Democrats and Republicans will relate what happened last year.

  • Democrats and the White House are eager to portray the pullout as a necessary step that kept American troops safe and ended the region’s 20-year war.
  • Republicans, meanwhile, still hope to re-examine mistakes made by the administration before and after the evacuation, and plan to make Afghanistan a key part of the investigations if they regain power in Congress next year.

Read the memo.