The Senate Foreign Relations Committee published a new report last Thursday assessing the Biden administration’s failed Afghanistan withdrawal last August, revealing that as many as 9,000 Americans were abandoned in Afghanistan during the disastrous pull-out. This directly refutes the Biden administration’s previous estimates of around 100 to 200 American citizens left behind, as claimed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The new report, signed by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Kim Risch of Idaho, shows just how unprepared the Biden administration was with regard to the evacuation, ignoring their own intelligence reports about the Taliban and not planning ahead of the announcement.
Estimates showed that around 10,000 to 15,000 US citizens were still stuck in Afghanistan on August 17. This was during August 15 to August 31, the time period wherein the largest evacuation efforts took place. Furthermore, around 6,000 Americans were able to escape before the Afghan Taliban took over the country. These efforts reportedly severely lacked planning, coordination, and communication, with no clear system for contacting evacuees.
Despite possibly knowing the real number of American citizens left in Afghanistan, US President Biden had said last August, “We completed one of the biggest airlifts in history, with more than 120,000 people evacuated to safety. That number is more than double what most experts thought were possible.”
Clearly, it was true that it was indeed one of the largest airlifts done in history; however, the administration failed to be transparent and accountable for the real number of Americans that were left behind to the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, almost ensuring their possible demise at the hands of terrorists. There is a big difference between the military expertly carrying out a badly made plan and the people who planned it. President Biden inherited the capabilities of the armed services in carrying out the hasty evacuation, his election did not create them.
It was also determined that the National Security Council, which had the task to coordinate the evacuation, had severely failed in its mandate. It was determined it wasted 115 days by not having a single meeting to discuss the withdrawal. The first senior meeting was reportedly done on August 14 at 3:30 pm, mere hours before Kabul fell into Taliban forces’ hands.
Amidst the botched evacuation, it was also revealed that 17,000 (possibly even more) local Afghans who were working with the US government for 20 years, thus being eligible for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program, were also left behind due to insufficient coordination with the Department of Defense. They were not able to determine and verify those that were eligible, signifying neglect from the US Government.
Secretary of State Blinken, last August, also reported that the US citizens that were left behind in Afghanistan were dual citizens who had familial ties in the country and that leaving was something difficult for them to do. It seems that the Biden administration was using the dual citizenship card as a means to downplay the number of US citizens left behind in Afghanistan.
The committee expressly contradicted this claim, stating, “Instead of reinforcing the administration’s commitment to continue to evacuate Americans, Secretary Blinken instead parsed between dual nationals and American citizens claiming the remainder were ‘…dual citizens living in Afghanistan for years, decades, generations. Deciding whether or not to leave the place that they know as home is a wrenching decision.’ Dual citizens faced the same security threats and deserved the same efforts to depart Afghanistan as American citizens. The effort to distinguish between dual citizens and American citizens is a distinction without a difference and appears to have been a messaging tactic to minimize the number of American citizens left behind.”
US noncombatants, the Afghan National Security Forces, and other Afghan personnel were also left exposed to the Taliban due to the rapid departure of the US military. Furthermore, the rapid abandonment of the Bagram Air Base, which could have been used for evacuation purposes, was also cited as one of the main blunders.
It can be said that Americans, regardless of political color, had disagreements with the decision to leave Afghanistan. However, Risch stated that all Americans share the outrage with the failed evacuation process, which even saw US soldiers killed during a suicide bombing on August 26, 2021.
The report would thank all the men and women serving in the US Armed Forces for helping in their own evacuation from Afghanistan along with key NATO allies despite the US government suddenly withdrawing without NATO consultation. Note that the campaign in Afghanistan is not solely a US military mission but a campaign done in coordination with NATO.
“US airmen and soldiers accomplished amazing things during this time, but prudent planning would have spared them many of the horrors they had to endure,” the committee reported.