The Biden administration was faulted in an after-action report of the chaotic final withdrawal of U.S. forces and civilians from Kabul in the last days of operations in Afghanistan.
On Saturday, The Washington Post published a declassified report from the Pentagon that outlined how decisions to secure the city’s international airport contributed to problems faced by U.S. forces.
According to the document, the particular fault for delays in the evacuation process was the number of U.S. State Department officials still in the country, many of whom had just arrived and were unfamiliar with proper protocol. This purportedly caused extended delays and confusion during the evacuation process.
According to the report, the “delay in embassy staff drawdown, NEO declaration, and lack of agreed upon indications and warning procedures increased risk to mission upon noncombatant evacuations operations execution.”
In one portion of the report, the State Department is faulted for rotating a new team of embassy staffers in the middle of the evacuation process. The Department of Defense said it “caused confusion as the new consular team established operations” as hundreds of U.S. civilians and Afghans were seeking an exit from the country through an unfamiliar application process.
“Consular staff did not have sufficient manning to supervise all processing at the gates, which often led to Department of Defense (DOD) personnel at the gates making on the spot calls on paperwork,” the report says.
U.S. soldiers were reportedly making many of the “on the spot calls” with almost no experience in State Department processes. They were tasked with verifying papers from people as civilians swarmed the airport. Their inexperience and the delay of operation led to confusion.
The report implies that bureaucratic decisions slowed down the efficacy of an orderly evacuation in the final days of the occupation.
Ultimately, this led to the “confusion” on Kabul’s tarmac last summer, including frantic Afghan civilians trying to cling to U.S. aircraft during takeoff, leading to deaths. The chaos further sparked the attack on U.S. forces and civilians at the airport’s Abbey Gate, leading to the deaths of more than a dozen U.S. soldiers.
The Biden administration has been defensive of U.S. credibility in the wake of the Afghanistan withdrawal.
On Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki claimed that “there was no after-action report.” She referred to the documents obtained by the Washington Post as “a range of FOIA documents” detailing interviews with military members. However, the first page of the declassified documents said, “Operation Allies Refuge After Action Review.”