As if the Afghanistan withdrawal plan formulated by President Joe Biden’s administration couldn’t have looked any worse, a report from multiple sources indicates Biden’s State Department ended a plan designed to quickly evacuate Americans from crisis zones just months before the fall of Kabul.
The Contingency and Crisis Response Bureau was established by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and was designed to evacuate U.S. citizens from crisis zones by providing “aviation, logistics, and medical support capabilities for the Department’s operational bureaus, thereby enhancing the secretary’s ability to protect American citizens overseas in connection with overseas evacuations in the aftermath of a natural or man-made disaster,” according to Fox News.
On June 11, Deputy Secretary of State Brian P. McKeon recommended in a document labeled “sensitive but unclassified” that the department’s Contingency and Crisis Response Bureau be discontinued.
However, The National Pulse — a conservative publication helmed by former Breitbart editor Raheem Kassam, which was the first to report on the memo on Wednesday — said, “the decision to pause the program may have come as early as February, both undermining the original Trump-era date for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, and certainly giving the Taliban time to threaten American assets and lives on the run up to Joe Biden’s September 11th date of withdrawal.”
The memo had the subject line “(SBU) Contingency and Crisis Response Bureau,” according to the article, which was written by Kassam.
The document recommends Secretary of State Antony Blinken “direct the discontinuation of the establishment, and termination of, the Contingency and Crisis Response Bureau (CCR), and direct a further review of certain associated Department requirements and capabilities.”
Furthermore, it also recommended he “direct the discontinuation of the establishment, and termination of, CCR, consistent with the applicable legal requirements, necessary stakeholder engagement, and any applicable changes to the Foreign Affairs Manual and other requirements.”
A State Department official told Fox News by email that it “is important to note that not only would the proposed Contingency and Crisis Response Bureau not have introduced any new capabilities to the Department, it was never formally established.”
“Some administrative steps were taken before its establishment was paused, but the day-to-day operations of the team have not changed,” the spokesperson wrote.
“Every requirement the Department delivered on last year, and since the proposed establishment of the bureau, can be delivered on today in the same manner if appropriate to do so.”
The outlet reported that another official with the State Department “stressed to Fox News that none of the capabilities provided by the bureau have gone away. That official characterized the bureau as being in its early stages at the time, saying Secretary of State Antony Blinken had requested a review on it soon after he joined the department earlier this year.”
Another State Department source spoke to the Washington Free Beacon, saying “the Biden administration did ‘not abolish any Bureau.’ The official maintained the CCR Bureau created by the Trump administration ‘was never established in the first place.'”
However, this State Department claim has been disputed by multiple sources who have spoken to the Free Beacon.
Grumblings among Foggy Bottom careerists regarding CCR were reported on by DiploPundit, a blog which “wades into leadership and management issues, realities of Foreign Service life, ambassadors and nominations, embassy report cards, current events in countries and regions which may or may not include prominent U.S. interests, and other developments in the international affairs community.”
Sources cited in an October article told the blog that CCR would “reportedly take $26 million funding from the Bureau of Medical Services (MED). It will also pull 98 positions from MED and it will share EX and IT services with the Medical Services bureau.”
“Very sexy stuff, whereas what MED providers do is the more mundane day-to-day care of diplomats and their families overseas,” the source said.
As the events of the last week have proved, perhaps it might have been prudent to be prepared for “very sexy stuff,” like the sudden fall of a country (say, one that the United States was in the process of withdrawing from and where the primary threat came from a brutal insurgency it had overthrown 20 years prior), even if it meant a bit less for “the more mundane day-to-day care” of U.S. diplomats that might be trapped in said country if it suddenly fell to those insurgents.
A source told DiploPundit that “almost everyone in MED” (the blog author’s words) viewed the creation of CCR as “the ultimate bureaucratic power play” (the source’s words).
Thankfully, the secretary of State ended a nascent bureau started under the administration of former President Donald J. Trump in a decision that may have been made less than a month into the Biden administration, according to The National Pulse’s report, in a move that was by no means a “bureaucratic power play” the way that starting it up was.
And it’s good to see the State Department, like most of the constituent parts of the Biden administration, still hasn’t found an efficient way to cover its behind on the sanguinary botch that is the Afghanistan withdrawal.
Its dismissal of the importance of the CCR, if we’re to understand the Fox report accurately, is that none of the bureau’s capabilities were diminished by the administration killing it off.
That’s because the bureau started by the Trump administration was in the early stages of being — and that’s mostly due to the fact that the Biden administration reportedly didn’t develop it, if we’re to believe reports that the decision to kill it off was made in February.
As of Tuesday, NBC News reported, the Biden administration was telling Senate staffers that there were up to 15,000 Americans in the country.
But what are we to expect? When the president brushes away images of Afghans so desperate to flee their country they hang on to departing airplanes until they fall off — telling ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that was “four days ago, five days ago” (it was actually two) — it’s not as if anyone cares too much about a program that could have gotten Americans out of the collapsing country when that program was ended months ago.
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