In a Monday letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the lawmakers said they were requesting for the “final time” that witnesses from both departments testify at a September 9 hearing before the Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security, the Hill reported Tuesday.
“Should your departments refuse to appear voluntarily, the subcommittee will have no other choice but to receive testimony through compulsory process,” the letter stated.
According to The Hill, the committee has been seeking testimony from Pentagon and State Department officials on the Trump administration’s strategy in Afghanistan since August 2019 to no avail.
After not receiving a response from the officials to its August 2019 request, the committee then requested officials testify at hearings in January and March, according to the letter.
The Hill reported that in January, the committee was told three days beforehand no officials would appear despite the panel having rescheduled to accommodate the Pentagon.
In March, the committee was told officials were cutting back their appearances on Capitol Hill because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Last month, the committee asked David Helvey, the acting assistant secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, and Zalmay Khalilzad, Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, to appear at the September 9 hearing.
But the letter said the Pentagon “refused to attend,” and Khalilzad “could not participate ‘due to travel.’”
This comes after Pompeo said at a hearing late July that all troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by May next year. He said they would “be down to zero” by then.
So far, over 8,600 troops have been withdrawn and five US military bases have been handed over to the Afghan National Army in accordance with the Doha agreement signed in February between the US and the Taliban.
However, the next step, of intra-Afghan negotiations, between the Afghan government and the Taliban has stalled.
Talks, expected to have started early last month, failed to kick off after President Ashraf Ghani halted the prisoner release program.
As per the Doha agreement, the Taliban has freed about 1,000 government personnel while government has released over 5,000.
But 320 prisoners labeled “hardcore” have still not been freed. Australia, France and the US have all objected to the release of some of this group as they are responsible for having killed citizens of these countries.
Others in the group are accused of having masterminded some of Afghanistan’s most serious attacks over the years, while others are drug kingpins.