The Biden administration‘s withdrawal from Afghanistan may have gone down in history as one of the most dangerous and chaotic in history, and now a recently released report commissioned by Secretary of State Antony Blinken has confirmed why the White House worked so hard to bury its findings.
The State Department‘s After Action Review (AAR) issued over the Independence Day weekend paints a bleak picture of the Biden administration‘s Afghanistan withdrawal. According to the report, “overly optimistic assessments of the situation in Afghanistan“ led officials to underestimate the danger of the situation before it quickly spiraled out of control.
Warnings of a catastrophic end to the Biden administration‘s withdrawal “seem to have been met with a lack of urgency,” the report noted. As a result, when Kabul eventually fell to the Taliban after city after city, most senior American officials were caught unprepared.
Receiving assurances from Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani did not help matters either. “Receiving assurances from Ghani does not mean the Department and the interagency could not have been better prepared for a worst–case scenario,” the AAR stated.
One such critical worst–case scenario could have been a noncombatant evacuation operation (NEO), but it appears this was not given the attention it deserved. The AAR called out the Biden administration for “[failing] to plan for a NEO with the potential to expand into a large humanitarian airlift.” Ultimately, the evacuation operation was “condensed from three days to less than 24 hours“ as Diplomatic Security agents and contractors were still inside the compound as the Taliban arrived.
The lack of preparation extended beyond the evacuation plan as well. Unfilled Senate–confirmed appointee positions added to the dysfunction, while “constantly changing policy guidance and public messaging“ — such as deciding which populations were eligible for relocation — only added to the chaos and confusion.
It‘s a troubling conclusion, and one that needs to be considered in light of other rapidly changing, and potentially chaotic, situations that have occurred around the world since the U.S. left Afghanistan.
From Putin‘s forces‘ invasion of Ukraine to the deadly siege of the U.S. Embassy in Sudan, the Biden administration has had to cope by merely reacting to events as they happened, without much planning for what could come next.
The State Department‘s American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) is currently under intense pressure from Chinese aggression, and the dangers of the situation there can no longer be ignored. Back in February, the AIT issued a message about “preparing now for disasters,” which included little more than tips for Americans in Taiwan to create a “go–bag“ and “stay–bag.”
It‘s not enough, and it‘s time for the Biden administration to heed the warnings from the AAR and take the necessary steps to ensure they are prepared for worst–case scenarios across the board. To not do so is to gamble with American lives.