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Biden admin warned not to withhold after-action reports on botched Afghanistan withdrawal

FIRST ON FOX: A Republican member of Congress is warning the Biden administration not to withhold the after-action reports on the president’s botched and deadly military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Rep. Ted Budd, R-N.C., sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin calling on the Department of Defense (DOD) to release the reports on the Afghanistan withdrawal and not withhold them as the department was reportedly weighing.

“The Biden administration’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan cost the lives of 13 Marines, countless Afghan civilian allies, and it put American weakness on full display,” Budd told Fox News Digital in a Tuesday statement.

BIDEN SAYS MIDDLE EAST IS MORE ‘STABLE AND SECURE,’ BUT CRITIC POINTS OUT ‘SHAMBOLIC’ AFGHANISTAN WITHDRAWAL

“The American people deserve the full truth about what went wrong last year,” the North Carolina Republican continued. “That’s why I’m urging Secretary Austin to make these after-action reports public as soon as possible.”

“There must not be any slow-walking or whitewashing of this administration’s handling of the withdrawal,” he added. “Now is the time for transparency and accountability, not bureaucratic politics.”

It was reported the Biden administration is weighing withholding the Afghanistan after-action reports that would likely be politically damaging to Democrats ahead of a tough midterm.

In the letter exclusively obtained by Fox News Digital, Budd that it “has been 11 months since the Biden Administration mismanaged the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan” and essential questions from the pullout “have been unanswered, and Department of Defense (DOD) leadership has offered little insight to the public into how failures in intelligence and execution occurred.”

The Department of Defense is reportedly weighing withholding the reports on the botched, deadly withdrawal that claimed the lives of 13 American service members.

Budd called on Austin to “communicate to the American people how those painful experiences can inform and improve future decision-making and strategic planning.”

“Press reports indicate DOD is considering whether to publicly release portions of after-action reports focusing on the last 18 months of the war in Afghanistan,” Budd wrote. “Furthermore, reports indicate that your department has returned at least one after-action report, citing new data that the report did not consider.”

“While I understand that some of this information must remain classified due to its sensitive nature, I struggle to see how you could decide the public has no interest or right to portions of these reports, which could help explain how the evacuation went so wrong,” he continued.

The North Carolina Republican said the “Pentagon should strive to avoid even the appearance that its leaders withhold unclassified information because those findings could shine an unfavorable light on its leadership.”

He also wrote that DOD’s ability to “learn every lesson” from the withdrawal, as Austin claimed they would do in a September 2021 press conference, “would be severely undermined by failing to disclose key findings from these after-action reports.”

An US Air Force aircraft takes off from the airport in Kabul on August 30, 2021. - Rockets were fired at Kabul's airport on August 30 where US troops were racing to complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan and evacuate allies under the threat of Islamic State group attacks. 

“In a related move, I successfully added an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act that requires DOD to restore all accountings of military assistance provided to the Afghan security forces that were publicly available on DOD websites as of July 1, 2021,” Budd wrote.

“That amendment was necessary because several Government Accountability Office reports had been removed in August 2021 without a significant or satisfactory explanation,” he continued. “I am formally requesting an update on how your department is complying with this statutory requirement.”

“Over the past 20 years, the American people have invested approximately $2 trillion of their tax dollars in the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. More importantly, nearly 3,000 U.S. service men and women made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation in Afghanistan, fighting the war against a Taliban-controlled government and the terrorist who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001. These military families deserve transparency and accountability from your department.”

Budd then called on the department to “publicly release as much information as practical without jeopardizing national security” regarding the disastrous pullout.

The Department of Defense did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.

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