Michael Waltz: Time for Defense Department to Testify Before Congress About Afghanistan

This week, U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz. R-Fla., wrote U.S. Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin, asking for the Pentagon to brief the U.S. House Armed Services Committee “on how the Defense Department has secured, archived, and standardized operational data and intelligence gathered over the past two decades in Afghanistan as required by last year’s defense bill.”

Waltz, the first Green Beret to serve in Congress and a former aide to then Vice President Dick Cheney, weighed in on why he sent the letter. During his time in the miliary, Waltz served in Afghanistan.

“It’s been over a year since the failed withdrawal from Afghanistan and seven months past the Department of Defense’s mandated briefing deadline,” said Waltz. “I am becoming more and more concerned that during and since the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, the critical data and intelligence collected in Afghanistan was left behind, lost, or misplaced. Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda and ISIS are reconstituting in Afghanistan and continue to pose a real threat to our country. We have no bases or allies in the region. It is critical we secure, preserve, and make accessible across the military services the information collected, especially if we have to send soldiers back in the future.”

Waltz does not face any opposition from the Democrats in next month’s election. Libertarian Joe Hannoush, who took 1.7 percent when he ran for a state House seat in 2018 and 2.3 percent for that same seat in 2020, is running against Waltz.

The letter is below:

Dear Secretary Austin,

As you know, Section 1088 of the FY22 National Defense Authorization Act (PL 117-21) required the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security to brief the House Armed Services Committee on how the Department has secured, archived, and standardized operational data and intelligence gathered over the past two decades in Afghanistan, and how this data could be accessed across the Joint Force. This briefing was due March 4, 2022.

We are currently in October — over seven months past the statutory deadline and over a year since the failed Afghanistan withdraw. I am disappointed the Committee has not received this mandated briefing. I am also concerned that in the 14 months since the withdrawal, critical data has been lost, misplaced, or is other inaccessible.

The intelligence is clear: Al-Qaeda is reforming in Afghanistan. We will once again be facing the prospect of terrorist attacks on American interests abroad and possibly the homeland itself.

As a Special Forces veteran, who served multiple tours in Afghanistan and fought Al-Qaeda and their Taliban backers, I dread a future where American soldiers will once again take on this threat. However, next time, we will be sending them in with no bases, no local allies, and an enemy that is armed with equipment we left behind following our disastrous, ill-planned, and shortsighted withdrawal in August 2021.

We must ensure the lessons learned from the two-decade conflict are not lost or misplaced. The operational and intelligence data from Afghanistan is important for a wholistic understanding of the war and must be accessible if future campaigns in Afghanistan occur.

I once again request, as mandated by Federal Law, to know what efforts, if any, did your Department make to secure and preserve operational data from the Afghanistan War.

Kevin Derby
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