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State Department’s Afghanistan withdrawal review blames Trump, Biden administrations: ‘Painful lessons’

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The U.S. Department of State released a damning formal evaluation of the United States’ chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, placing blame on both the Trump and Biden administrations.

The State Department conducted more than 150 interviews over a 90-day period to compile the report, which was publicized Friday. Notably, 13 American service members died in a suicide bombing at Kabul’s airport during the controversial withdrawal, which concluded Aug. 30, 2021.

The report found that both President Trump and President Biden had “insufficient senior-level consideration” of what could go wrong during a withdrawal.

“The decisions of both President Trump and President Biden to end the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan had serious consequences for the viability of the Afghan government and its security,” the report stated. “Those decisions are beyond the scope of this review, but the AAR team found that during both administrations there was insufficient senior-level consideration of worst-case scenarios and how quickly those might follow.”

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Afghanistan exit

In this Aug. 21, 2021, photo provided by the U.S. Marines, U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command, provide assistance at an evacuation control checkpoint during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla/U.S. Marine Corps via AP) (Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla/U.S. Marine Corps via AP)

The report found that there was no clear point of contact at the State Department regarding the NEO, or non-combatant evacuation operation. The U.S. military plans for operations, but the State Department leads them.

“U.S. military planning for a possible NEO had been underway with post for some time, but the Department’s participation in the NEO planning process was hindered by the fact that it was unclear who in the Department had the lead.” the report described.

“Naming a 7th floor principal to oversee all elements of the crisis response would have improved coordination across different lines of effort,” the findings added.

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President Biden received coffins of Marines who died in Afghanistan suicide attack

President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken look on as a carry team moves a transfer case with the remain of Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Ind., during a casualty return at Dover Air Force Base, Del., Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, for the 13 service members killed in the suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 26.  (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

On Friday, a senior State Department official discussed how lessons learned from the Afghanistan invasion could impact American response to the war in Ukraine.

“We’ve already internalized many of these painful lessons and applied them in subsequent crises, most notably in how we manage the Russian invasion in Ukraine …and in some of the aspects of our response to the crisis in Sudan a couple of months ago,” the official explained.

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U.S soldiers stand guard along a perimeter at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. On Monday, the U.S. military and officials focus was on Kabul’s airport, where thousands of Afghans trapped by the sudden Taliban takeover rushed the tarmac and clung to U.S. military planes deployed to fly out staffers of the U.S. Embassy, which shut down Sunday, and others.

U.S soldiers stand guard along a perimeter at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. On Monday, the U.S. military and officials focus was on Kabul’s airport, where thousands of Afghans trapped by the sudden Taliban takeover rushed the tarmac and clung to U.S. military planes deployed to fly out staffers of the U.S. Embassy, which shut down Sunday, and others.  (AP Photo/Shekib Rahmani, File)

“We’ve strengthened and increased staffing of the Office of Crisis Management Strategy in the operations center…we’ve also increased the number of people who are identified within a range of bureaus as most likely to be a nexus for a crisis in the near future to make sure we’ve got good on-call rosters as things might develop or unfold.”



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Caleb Alexander

Caleb Alexander

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