Sources told CNN that Republican and Democratic lawmakers failed to answer their basic questions during briefings for members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee after the Office of the Director of the State Department, the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security and national security officials.
State Department officials – both private and public – continue to say that there are about 100 Americans still in Afghanistan who want to get out. Some lawmakers have told CNN they don’t understand that accounting, noting that the department has said they evacuated more than 75 Americans from Afghanistan through evacuation efforts over the past few weeks. State Department officials have said the dynamic situation on the ground is the reason they cannot give more accurate figures.
A State Department spokesman told CNN on Wednesday that “as a general matter, we do not comment on communications with Congress, particularly those conducted in a classified setting.”
Texas Representative Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead” on Wednesday that “everyone walked out of the meeting,” and questioned whether administration officials still had Americans. Know the number of in the country.
“You know, the fact is, I believe there are still hundreds of Americans still behind enemy lines. Most of the interpreters you and I talked about didn’t get out,” he Said with reference to the Afghan interpreters who did the work. The US military said it had received “horrible stories” from the people of the country.
“I don’t think they know all the answers, quite honestly,” he said of the administration.
A Democratic aide told CNN that some members skipped Wednesday’s classified briefing because there were Republican members who did not wear masks according to COVID-19 protocol. The aide said many members are satisfied with their engagement with the State Department.
Evacuation flights continue to depart from Afghanistan at a slow pace, with more than one 21 US national involved over the weekend. Officials say background checks for people who do not have all the required documents require a lot of work because of the coordination required between the US, Qatar and the Taliban.
State Department officials say the Biden administration aims to regularize out-of-country flights, but that can only be achieved if commercial flights are going in and out of Kabul airport, and that could take weeks. .
Planned efforts to coordinate between the State Department and private individuals or groups – which emerged after initial tensions between the two sides – are now underway. The State Department calls with the AfghanIvac coalition twice weekly, and those involved describe the current situation as less chaotic than it initially was.
“I don’t think we can get better coordination than what we’re building now,” said Shawn VanDiever, founder of the Truman National Security Project San Diego chapter. “We feel that we are part of the team and we have a common goal.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Representative Michael McCall’s participation in the briefing.
CNN’s Natasha Bertrand, Katie Bo Lillis and Shawna Mizell contributed reporting.