The State Department released a declassified version of its long-anticipated report Friday looking at the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, revealing the harshest criticism of any effort yet. government to test its own handling of the crisis to date.
“The decisions by both President Trump and President Biden to end the U.S. military mission pose significant challenges to the United States. [State] Department as they seek to maintain a strong diplomatic and supportive presence in Kabul and provide ongoing support to the government and people of Afghanistan,” the report said.
The White House released an extensive review in April, partly based on the State Department investigation, which was completed in March 2022.
But that initial brief painted the Biden administration in much more flamboyant terms, asserting that the president “implemented a deliberate, in-depth, rigorous, and comprehensive decision-making process.” but restricted by its predecessor.
The State Department review found that some of Biden’s choices have “complicated the difficulties” facing diplomats in Afghanistan, such as the speed at which troops withdraw and hand over the Air Base. Bagram troops to the Afghan government in July 2021, leaving Hamid Karzai International Airport as the only evacuation route.
That airport later became the setting for some of the darkest, wildest moments of the retreat, including a terrorist attack that claimed the lives of 13 US service members and numerous Afghans. desperate to flee when Kabul falls to the Taliban.
While the White House previously said Biden directed government agencies to prepare for “any contingencies,” the State Department investigation uncovered disorganization at the highest levels of government. , saying “it is unclear who in the department took the lead” on the evacuation efforts.
The review also claimed that senior officials failed to make a key decision about which at-risk Afghan nationals should be transported by plane before Afghanistan descended into chaos.
Even as the Taliban accumulated power and moved closer to Kabul, the report said that US officials failed to act with appropriate urgency and instead “appeared to rely on assurances received” from Afghanistan’s then-president said that the country’s forces “will be focused on defending Kabul and believe they can hold off the Taliban for a while.”
Although estimates of how long the Afghan military can maintain control vary, the State Department’s assessment claims US officials did not adequately plan for the worst-case scenario and did not provide decisive action when the situation becomes reality.
“We took many of these painful lessons and applied them in subsequent crises, most notably in the way we managed the Russian invasion of Ukraine and in some aspects of the response,” he said. our response to the crisis in Sudan a few months ago.” said a senior official.
Like the previous statement from the White House, this report does not address the message sent by dozens of diplomats from the US Embassy in Kabul in July 2021, warning the country could collapse and urged the Secretary of State to accelerate evacuation efforts.
Republicans on Capitol Hill have been urging the State Department to share its findings widely since the report was circulated to select members of Congress in April, but it’s unclear if the version will be released later in the day. Does Friday please conservatives? Only a quarter of the 80-page report was made public.