The US State Department released its Afghanistan After Action Review report, detailing the failures of both the Trump and Biden administrations during the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in 2021.
The long-awaited report found that the decision by both administrations had detrimental consequences and laid out the shortcomings of a “chaotic and dangerous environment” during the pullout after nearly two decades of war in Afghanistan.
“The decisions of both President (Donald) Trump and President (Joe) Biden to end the US military mission in Afghanistan had serious consequences for the viability of the Afghan government and its security,” said the unclassified report.
“Those decisions are beyond the scope of this review, but the AAR (After Action Review) team found that during both administrations there was insufficient senior-level consideration of worst-case scenarios and how quickly those might follow,” it added.
Out of the 85-page After Action Report, the department made only 24 pages public, keeping the remainder classified.
The details emerged more than a year following a 90-day long review of the handling of the evacuation operation and include details of what happened in the final days of US presence in Afghanistan and recommendations to prepare for future events.
The finding of the reports also highlighted the shortcomings of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, without naming him.
It included the state department’s failure in expanding its crisis management task force as the Taliban advanced on Kabul in August 2021 and the lack of a senior diplomat “to oversee all elements of the crisis response”.
Referring to the State Department’s top floor where Mr Blinken and other top diplomats have their office, it said: “Naming a 7th floor principal … would have improved coordination across different lines of effort.”
The report stated that senior Biden administration officials had “not made clear decisions” regarding at-risk Afghans. There were no clear instructions about who would be included in the evacuation operation or about where they would be taken.
“That added significantly to the challenges the Department and DoD faced during the evacuation,” it said.
The State Department’s noncombatant evacuation operation (NEO) “was hindered by the fact that it was unclear who in the Department had the lead”, it said.
The review also stated the concerns about signalling and maintaining confidence in the Afghan government hindered crisis preparation and planning. This inhibition ultimately contributed to the collapse of the Afghan government in mid-August 2021.
The report comes as the Biden administration was criticised for its chaotic pullout of US troops and its officials from Kabul after the takeover of the Taliban, toppling president Ashraf Ghani’s government.
The unprecedented scenes showed hundreds of thousands of Afghans and other citizens trying to flee Taliban rule and attempting to enter Kabul airport.
Videos showed men clinging onto aircraft as they taxied down runways and others trying to climb the big walls of the airport.
During the evacuations, an Islamic State suicide bomber killed 13 US servicemembers and more than 150 Afghans outside an airport gate.
According to the report, approximately 125,000 individuals, including nearly 6,000 Americans, were evacuated from Kabul prior to the departure of the last US soldiers from Afghanistan on 20 August.
Defending Mr Biden’s handling of evacuations, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the decisions were made to end the war.
“He had to make a decision,” she told reporters on Friday. The US had poured “billions of dollars into a war with no end in sight” and that “he wanted to stop that, he wanted to end that,” she said.
A Trump spokesperson said: “There’s only one person responsible for the disastrous pullout of Afghanistan — Joe Biden.”
The State Department’s critical review was not reflected in the White House report which was released in April.
Source : Independent