Telling about the American failure in Afghanistan

A father holds his child outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 19, 2021. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Hello. We are thinking of the Afghan people this week.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Republicans will release a report today on the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan last year, outlining poor planning and its vast ramifications for the Afghan people and for strategic security. American.

Frustration over ignored warnings – and a lack of accountability from senior officials afterwards – underlies the report. A copy obtained by the dispatch before publication also unveils new information about the withdrawal.

Many more American citizens remained in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover than the 100-200 citizens of the White House earlier valued were still in the country, according to the report. The State Department confirmed it has evacuated more than 800 Americans from Afghanistan since late August 2021.

The report also raises concerns about the whereabouts of thousands of former Afghan military personnel privy to sensitive US information and US training. Many of these staff leak to Iran after the Taliban took over, which poses information security risks.

Republicans on the committee describe the release as an interim report. If their party wins the House in November, they will likely issue subpoenas to compel testimony and seek more information from the executive.

The report also recalls one of the most egregious aspects of the withdrawal: the failure to evacuate many Afghan allies who are legally allowed to live in the United States. Approximately 77,200 Afghans who applied for acceptance of SIV stay in Afghanistan today with their families, facing danger under the Taliban regime. And the tens of thousands of Afghans who were able to come to the United States amid a chaotic last-minute evacuation last year are facing legal uncertainty and massive delays in applying for permanent lawful residency, as we wrote to you last week.

The State Department, in particular, receives much of the House GOP’s scathing criticism in the report.. It reviews the Biden administration’s failure to prioritize the evacuation of SIV candidates despite months of advocacy by veterans groups, human rights activists and lawmakers before withdrawal.

In the spring and summer of 2021, after President Joe Biden made it clear that he planned to follow a deal former President Donald Trump made with the Taliban and get American troops out of Afghanistan, the lawmakers called on the White House in letters and in conversations with senior officials to quickly evacuate tens of thousands of Afghan allies who aided US troops during the 20-year war.

Those who had not completed the lengthy selection process could complete it on Guam, a US island in the western Pacific, before entering the United States, a bipartisan group of lawmakers told the administration in June. There was historical precedent for this, including after the fall of Saigon in 1975. The imminent departure of US troops from Afghanistan would put Afghans who assisted coalition troops in grave danger of retaliation from the Taliban, they said. underline.

But the White House ignored their calls to evacuate, and senior officials proved complacent when questioned by senior lawmakers.

“Time is running out and the Taliban are on the march,” Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said during a hearing with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in June 2021.

McCaul lobbied Blinken over his department’s plans to bring Afghan allies to safety through the special immigrant visa program, which offers residency to those who have worked with coalition troops as translators, between other roles. The program has been behind schedule for years; Advocates said at the time that no amount of red tape cuts could speed up the process enough for anyone entitled to safety in the United States to leave Afghanistan before the withdrawal. More drastic measures, such as evacuation to Guam, were needed.

But senior officials have resisted these arguments. During the hearing, Blinken assured lawmakers that the embassy in Kabul would be able to continue approving SIV applications even after US troops had left.

“Whatever happens in Afghanistan, if there is a significant deterioration in security – it could well happen, we have already discussed this – I don’t think it will be something that will happen from Friday to Monday,” Blinken told the Committee. “So I wouldn’t necessarily equate the departure of our forces in July, August or early September with some kind of immediate deterioration of the situation.”

These words could not have been more wrong: the Taliban took Kabul in one day, Sunday August 15, after making significant gains across the country over the weekend.

Not only did the administration fail to take the need to evacuate allies in advance seriously, but officials were also slow to act once it was clear that their optimistic predictions for the withdrawal were off the mark. come true, according to the GOP report.

The committee Republicans write that the Biden administration “waited until August 14, 2021, just hours before the Taliban seized Kabul, to begin making key decisions about evacuations, including the establishment of transit through third countries”.

“This delay resulted in capacity issues during the evacuation, resulting in the suspension of flights at various locations and people stranded in deteriorating humanitarian conditions,” the report said. “Military commanders have clearly stated that there is a complete lack of urgency from the White House, National Security Council (NSC), and State Department regarding an evacuation, despite warnings repeated.”

Once the evacuation was underway, the US government offered conflicting information to those seeking to leave, according to the report. Members of Congress hoping to help Afghan voters and allies escape had to deal with non-functioning State Department websites and absent email responses from the personnel office that should have been involved in the effort.

The fact that the U.S. military assets necessary to effect an evacuation were in place a month prior to the evacuation is particularly damning, according to the report. But US officials chose not to use them until it was too late.

“There are many sins, if you will”, McCaul said of the report during an interview with CBS over the weekend. “There was a total lack of planning and failure. There was no plan and no plan was executed.

Nothing. Both rooms are on vacation.

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