Declassified after-action reports show that U.S. military leaders were irate over diplomatic dithering that plagued America’s bungled exit from Afghanistan last August, according to a new report.
The report in the Washington Post said the after-action documents “detail repeated instances of friction between American troops and diplomats before and during the evacuation.”
The Post report said that the analysis concluded that “indecisiveness among Biden administration officials and initial reluctance to shutter the embassy in Kabul sowed chaos and put the overall mission at ‘increased risk.’”
On Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki rejected questions about the report by saying “there was no ‘after-action report’’ and the Biden administration had put months into planning the departure of Americans from Afghanistan.
The 2,000 pages of reporting are part of the overall Abbey Gate investigation report that focused on the bombings that killed around 170 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members.
An after-action report by U.S. Forces-Afghanistan Forward, dated Sept. 24, said that delays in getting diplomats out of Afghanistan made it harder for the military to do its job.
American troops would have been “much better prepared to conduct a more orderly” evacuation, Rear Adm. Peter Vasely said, “if policymakers had paid attention to the indicators of what was happening on the ground.”
One after-action report said delays left military leaders in Kabul about 12 hours to clear out the embassy there.
Another noted there was “insufficient airlift” in the Afghanistan region to get more troops to the airport.
“While considered in the planning phase, the scope and scale of the desperation population was not fully appreciated,” the report said, referring to civilians who fled to the airport after Kabul fell.
The new reports dovetail with a leaked document published by Axios that it said illustrated “just how unprepared the Biden administration was to evacuate Afghan nationals who’d helped the United States in its 20-year war against the Taliban.”
The document was headlined as the National Security Council’s “summary of conclusions” on the subject of “Relocations out of Afghanistan” after a Situation Room meeting.
Although the meeting was held as Taliban fighters were drawing a noose around Kabul, the meeting’s action items implied that there was endless time, as in its notation that officials in Kabul would begin chatting up local staff in Afghanistan “to begin to register their interest in relocation to the United States.”
This gap between reality and the Biden administration was noted at the time by those who tried, and failed, to get the administration to begin the process of relocating Afghan citizens who had been integral to the U.S. mission.
“I kept being told by people in the [White House] the thing they were most concerned about was the optics of a chaotic evacuation,” said Matt Zeller, a former CIA officer
“They treated us like we were Chicken Little. They didn’t believe the sky was falling,” he said. “On the 13th of July, we offered to work with them to help evacuate our partners. We all saw this disaster coming before the inevitable occurred. They didn’t get back to us until Aug. 15, the day Kabul fell.”
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