One Democrat lawmaker is threatening Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin with a subpoena after the Biden administration official refused to testify to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the botched withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan last month.
According to The Daily Wire, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NY) said Tuesday that he was “very disappointed” in Austin’s decision not to speak to the committee about the recent disaster, which ended in the Taliban taking control of Kabul and left at least 13 U.S. service members dead.
Testifying before Congress
Senators were hoping to hear from Austin about what went wrong during the withdrawal, including whether Biden administration officials lied to Congress or the American people about what was transpiring halfway around the globe.
Gen. Scott Miller, who served as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan until recently, was set to speak to the Senate Armed Services Committee as soon as this week.
In addition to chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, Austin is also slated to appear before the Armed Forces Committee, as The Daily Wire notes — and he may soon be legally compelled to visit the Foreign Relations panel, too.
“A full accounting”
“I’m very disappointed that Secretary Austin declined our request to testify today,” Menendez said Tuesday, according to The Daily Wire. “A full accounting of the U.S. response [to] this crisis is not complete without the Pentagon, especially when it comes to the complete collapse of the U.S.-trained and funded Afghan military.”
Menendez also said Austin’s decision “not to appear before the committee will affect my personal judgment on Department of Defense nominees.”
“I expect the Secretary will avail himself to the committee in the near future, and if he does not, I may consider use of committee’s subpoena power to compel him and others over the course of these last twenty years to testify,” the Democrat senator threatened.
We need answers
Of course, Menendez isn’t the only lawmaker who wants to hear Austin’s side of the story. According to U.S. News & World Report, Sen. Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican who serves as ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, has also spoken out.
“There’s questions we really need to have answered and it’s disheartening that they declined to testify,” Risch said.
Speaking with U.S. News & World Report, a spokesman for Austin said the defense secretary could not attend Tuesday’s hearing because “conflicting commitments made that appearance impracticable.”
“He greatly respects the oversight role of the Congress, and he looks forward to testifying at the end of this month before the Senate and House Armed Services Committees,” the statement added.