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.”
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.
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.
“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.”