A new report from Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee accuses the Biden administration of a “failure of leadership” that left tens of thousands of friendly Afghans at the mercy of the Taliban.
The report, published by committee ranking member Jim Risch (R-Idaho) on Wednesday, alleges the executive branch “ignored the warning signs of a Taliban takeover and wasted away precious days of planning and evacuation.
“Only hours before the Taliban captured Kabul did the interagency decide to start the evacuation,” Risch wrote.
“This failure of leadership cost US military personnel lives and has left tens of thousands behind to an uncertain fate under Taliban control. The Biden Administration squandered precious time, ignored intelligence and recommendations from people on the ground, and refused bipartisan support to give them the resources to succeed.”
While Risch acknowledged that the withdrawal was the “largest air evacuation” even — a point the administration has repeatedly made in claiming it as a success — the lawmaker said it was “marred by a lack of planning, coordination and communication.”
“The United States failed to establish a clear system of how to contact evacuees and processes to allow them into the airport,” he noted. “The result left American citizens, US legal permanent residents, and Afghan allies abandoned to the fate of the Taliban regime.”
The administration has repeatedly been criticized for being unable to evacuate all US citizens and Afghan allies before the last American troops were removed from the war-torn country.
Last month, CNN reported that approximately 80 Americans still remain in Afghanistan and want to get out.
The non-profit volunteer organization No One Left Behind says it is tracking approximately 10,500 Afghans who are eligible for, have applied for or are in the process of getting Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) and have requested help leaving Afghanistan. The organization is also tracking more than 45,000 accompanying family members.
In December, the organization was tracking approximately 10,000 SIV-eligible Afghans and roughly 38,000 family members.
“One of the most important roles of the U.S. government is for the protection of American citizens overseas,” Risch wrote. “The Biden Administration failed to properly plan for an evacuation despite countless warning signs that a Taliban takeover was imminent. The US government failed to even account for the number of people who would need to be evacuated, let alone for how this evacuation would occur.”
“The United States will have to deal with the fallout of this failure for years to come,” Risch wrote in the report’s introduction.
The report was published in the same week it was revealed that members of the administration were still scrambling to put together a plan to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies just hours before the Taliban took control of Kabul, according to notes of an Aug. 14 Situation Room meeting.
The document revealed that the administration was planning to evacuate at least 5,000 individuals from Afghanistan per day and would prioritize US citizens and their family members, followed by US government employees and contractors; embassy staff; Afghan contractors working with the embassy; CIA “priority partners”; and SIV applicants “who are post-Chief of Mission and have approved I-360 Petitions.”
“State will work to identify as many countries as possible to serve as transit points. Transit points need to be able to accommodate US citizens, Afghan nationals, third country nationals, and other evacuees,” the summary noted, then added in bold, “(Action: State, immediately)”
The document also specified that the US Embassy in Kabul would tell locally employed staff to “begin to register their interest” in relocation to the US and prepare “immediately” for departure.
Thursday’s report acknowledged the meeting, but said its occurrence at so late a date was “inexcusable.”
When pressed on the meeting documents, National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne told Axios that “cherry-picked notes from one meeting do not reflect the months of work” underway at the time.
At the end of the report, the Republican lawmakers offered up five recommendations to avoid similar failures in the future, including asking the State Department to develop a new system for accounting U.S. citizens overseas; urging the State Department and Department of Defense to review their memorandum of agreement for noncombatant evacuation operations; having both departments update their Synchronized Pre-deployment and Operational Tracker system for tracking Special Immigrant Visa employment; improve transparency with Congress, and add resources for consular service and personnel dealing with immigration.
Neither the State Department or Defense Department immediately responded to The Post’s request for comment.