Group of Senators push for closed briefing on Afghanistan troop withdrawal to be open to public

The heads of the State and Defense Departments will answer questions from two Senate Committees on Wednesday about the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

That briefing is closed to the public and some lawmakers are pushing to change that.

Eighteen Republican Senators sent a letter to the Democratic Chairs of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the upcoming testimony from Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

“It is imperative that a portion of this joint hearing be open to the public so that American families and all impacted by the botched withdrawal can hear directly from Secretaries Blinken and Austin,” the letter said. “We understand the importance of also having a closed portion of this hearing to discuss sensitive or classified information, but cannot allow this opportunity to pass without ensuring that the American people get answers from the Biden administration.”

We spoke with Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), who co-signed the letter.

“It ought to be an open hearing,” said Scott. “The American public needs to know exactly what happened.”

Scott said he intends to question Blinken and Austin about the events leading up to and during the troop withdrawal.

“We need the facts,” said Scott. “Why did we leave so much equipment behind? Why did we lose members of the military? Why was it so much chaos?”

Other Senators who co-signed the letter include Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE), Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS).

In August, President Biden defended the self-imposed August 31 deadline to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

“I stand squarely behind my decision,” said Biden in August. “After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces.”

We have asked staff for both Democratic chairs of the committees holding Wednesday’s closed briefing about the push to have it open to the public but they have not responded for comment.