US lawmakers view Afghanistan 'dissent' cable, dispute continues

By Patricia Zengerle and Simon Lewis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday privately viewed a classified cable related to the August 2021 U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, as the panel's Republican chairperson and State Department grapple over providing access to the document.

Representatives Michael McCaul, the panel's Republican chair, and Gregory Meeks, its top Democrat, viewed the cable at the State Department after McCaul last week said he had accepted an invitation to do so and would pause attempts to enforce a subpoena to obtain it.

McCaul said afterward he would speak to Meeks and committee members from both parties to discuss the next course of action if State does not agree to let all 51 members view the cable, as the subpoena requested.

McCaul said he was grateful he and Meeks were allowed to view the cable. "However, every member on our committee should be granted this same access," McCaul said in a statement.

Meeks said in a statement afterward that a briefing provided to committee members and summary of the cable faithfully reflected its contents.

McCaul is investigating the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Republicans, and some Democrats, say there has never been a full accounting of the chaotic operation, in which 13 U.S. service members were killed at Kabul's airport.

He has for months been seeking the "dissent channel" cable sent in July 2021 that a Wall Street Journal article in August 2021 said warned top officials of the potential collapse of Kabul soon after the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The channel allows State Department officials to air concerns to supervisors.

"I can say the dissenters were right - and the administration should have listened," McCaul said.

Making the cable available for McCaul and Meeks' private review was "extraordinary accommodation" on behalf of the State Department, spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

"We believe that ought to satisfy our obligation to provide them with the information that they need. But we will continue to engage with them" about the issue, he said.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Simon Lewis and Humeyra Pamuk; additional reporting by Jasper Ward; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Lisa Shumaker)