House Republicans release scathing report criticizing Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan

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That figure — meaning there was “about one consular officer for every 3,444 evacuees” — is one of several previously unreleased details outlined in the highly critical report investigating last August’s messy US pullout.

The report by Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released about a year after the country’s capital fell to the Taliban, reveals more new details about the Biden administration‘s failure to adequately plan for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and carry out. The report, the final draft of which was made available to CNN, also says the administration failed to detail the nature of events on the ground and put in place a plan to prevent American-trained Afghan commandos from being recruited by America’s opponents.

“Many of the Biden administration’s evacuation plans were drawn up in the spring of 2021 — some even before the president announced his withdrawal. And they have never been updated, despite advances on the Taliban battlefield, despite the deteriorating security situation, and despite revised intelligence ratings. said Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

President Joe Biden announced in mid-April 2021 that the US would withdraw all remaining troops from Afghanistan by September 11 of this year — the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that sparked America’s war there. While Biden has long wanted to end U.S. involvement in the Afghanistan war, he attributed the decision in part to the deal negotiated by the Trump administration with the Taliban, which pledged to withdraw by May 1, 2021.

In the weeks and months that followed, bipartisan lawmakers urged the administration to ensure plans are in place to ensure the protection of Afghans who have worked for the US during the nearly two-decade conflict, including evacuation options.

Both the State Department and the Pentagon have conducted their own reviews of the withdrawal, but neither department has released any findings. According to a source familiar with the review, the Pentagon’s review is ongoing, while the State Department completed its in March. The delay in its release is partly due to a multi-agency review process that has been overlaid with concerns about policy, visuals and how to effectively implement the lessons learned.

The House of Representatives report noted that as recently as mid-June 2021, the US Embassy in Kabul held an Operational Planning Team (OPT) meeting with members of the US military and US diplomats focused on pre-planning of non-combatant evacuation operations (NEO ). The meeting was described by a US military officer involved as “the first time” that the embassy began “exploring the possibility of NEO.”

Because of the “complete lack of proper planning by the Biden administration,” there were consequences: Evacuation flights “were only flying at about 50 percent of their capacity five days after the start of NEO,” the report said. The report refers to slow processing at the gates and chaos at the gates — a government evacuation process so chaotic and disorderly that even staffers of Vice President Kamala Harris and First Lady Jill Biden contacted outside groups to try and get people to get out, representatives for the groups told the committee.

Evacuation flights carried mostly men

The report found that those who were able to disembark on those evacuation flights were overwhelmingly male, despite concerns – now confirmed – that women would be deprived of their freedom when the Taliban took power.

“We now know through Department of State and Homeland Security data that only about 25 percent of those evacuated during NEO in Afghanistan were women or girls. To put that number in context, historically, more than half of refugee emergencies are made up of women and girls,” Ambassador Kelley Currie, the ambassador-at-large for the State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Affairs under the Trump administration, wrote in the report.

When Kabul fell and then-Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, two senior American officials – General Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, then head of US Central Command, and Zalmay Khalilzad, then the US Taliban’s special envoy for Afghanistan, mediated Deals under Trump – met with Taliban officials in Doha, where the militant group offered US control of the capital’s security.

McKenzie testified that he turned down the offer, telling Congress in September 2021, “That wasn’t why I was there, that wasn’t my direction, and we didn’t have the resources to carry out this mission.”

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However, Khalilzad told the committee he thought “we could have considered it,” the report said. The former official also said the US had not ordered the Taliban to stay out of Kabul.

“We didn’t say, ‘Don’t go.’ We advised them to be careful,” Khalilzad said, according to the report. Meanwhile, US officials have repeatedly said that the US supports peace talks between the Taliban and the Ghani government.

Those trying to flee the city then had to face the Taliban threat as they attempted to reach the airport, where thousands gathered outside the gates to desperately try to get in and onto a plane create. And in the early days of the evacuation, airport operations were so poor that groups of Afghans made their way onto the runway and desperately tried to hold down departing planes.

“Given that the government was handing control of Kabul to the Taliban, this was a very tactically challenging situation. But it was decisions they made — or in some cases avoided making — that led to this tactically challenging situation,” McCaul said.

National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said the report was “riddled with inaccurate characterizations, well-chosen information and false claims” and “advocates endless war and the sending of more American troops to Afghanistan.”

As this chaos unfolded, the report argues that the administration “repeatedly misled the American public” by attempting to downplay the grim situation on the ground and instead paint a picture of competence and progress.

The report juxtaposes the comments by State Department officials with internal memos, including one dated August 20, which said at least seven Afghans “died while waiting outside the access gates of HKIA (Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul). ‘ and that the Taliban ‘refused to accept the remains’ of the bodies stored at the airport.

“At one point, State Department spokesman Ned Price encouraged people to make their way to the airport, telling the press the evacuation was ‘efficient and effective,’ but the airport gates were closed and internal memos talked about how there was also a lot of dead bodies at the airport and they don’t know how to deal with all of them,” McCaul said.

The Biden administrator declined to attend

The committee requested transcribed interviews with more than 30 administration officials, but the Biden administration declined to participate. For the report, the committee relied on interviews and information from whistleblowers, discussions with people who were in Kabul during the pullout, and fact-finding trips to the region.

The State Department pushed back on the notion that it had failed to comply with Congressional scrutiny efforts.

“Since NEO, we have provided over 150 briefings for members and staff on Afghanistan, covering a wide range of topics — including disengagement, women and girls, resettlement operations, counter-terrorism and talks with the Taliban,” a State Department spokesman said. and added that Secretary of State Antony Blinken testified at two hearings on Afghanistan.

The Republicans leading this investigation are in the minority, meaning they don’t have subpoena power, but they have indicated they will issue subpoenas and investigate the withdrawal further if their party takes over the House in this year’s election should. They call this an interim report.

The report also says the government has failed – even months after the withdrawal – to take steps to prevent American-trained Afghan commandos from being recruited by US opponents such as Iran, China or Russia.

“The US government evacuated about 600 Afghan security forces who aided the evacuation by providing perimeter security and other functions, but these represent a very small fraction of the US-trained units that fought alongside American troops. And even those lucky enough to be evacuees are stranded in third countries,” the report said, adding that 3,000 Afghan security forces fled to Iran, according to a SIGAR report earlier this year.

As of July, the Biden administration still had no plan to prioritize the evacuation of these Afghans from the region as the State Department awaited a policy decision from the NSC, the report said.

CLARIFICATION: This article has been updated to reflect the expected release date of the report.

This story has also been updated with additional reports.

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