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Republicans Will Criticise Biden’s Afghanistan Pullout

According to a report that will soon be made public by House Republicans, during the height of the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, there were only 36 State Department officials on the ground at the Kabul airport to process Afghans who were trying to evacuate.

This is despite the department’s claims that they had surged resources to handle the crowds of people desperately trying to flee. The report was compiled in response to a question posed by House Republicans.

This figure, which meant that there was “roughly one consular officer for every 3,444 evacuees,” is one of several previously undisclosed details outlined in the highly critical report examining the chaotic US withdrawal in August of last year. The report was examining the situation in Iraq after the United States pulled out of the country.

The report that was put together by the Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is being published approximately one year after the Taliban took control of the country’s capital reveals additional new details about the failure of the administration of former President Joe Biden to adequately plan for and execute the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan.

CNN was able to get the final form of the report, which states that the administration misrepresented the nature of the events taking place on the ground and did not put a plan in place to prevent American-trained Afghan commandos from being recruited by America’s enemies.

“During the spring of 2021, the majority of the evacuation preparations that were implemented by the Biden administration were completed, and some of them were implemented even before the president announced the pullout.

“They were never updated even though the Taliban gained ground on the battlefield, even though the security situation was getting worse, and despite the revised intelligence assessments,” said Representative Michael McCaul, the leading Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

In the middle of April 2021, President Joe Biden made the announcement that the United States would pull out all of its remaining troops from Afghanistan by September 11 of that same year.

This date marked the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that kicked off the United States’ war in that region. Even though former Vice President Joe Biden has long advocated for the United States to end its involvement in the Afghanistan war, he explained that the decision was in part influenced by the agreement that was reached with the Taliban by the administration of Donald Trump, which included a commitment to withdraw by May 1, 2021.

In the weeks and months that followed, lawmakers from both parties urged the administration to ensure that plans were in place to ensure the protection of Afghans who worked for the United States during the nearly two-decade-long conflict, including options for evacuation.

These plans should include measures to ensure the safety of Afghans who worked for the United States during the conflict.

Both the Department of State and the Department of Defense (Pentagon) have carried out their own investigations into the withdrawal, but neither of these departments has made any of their conclusions public.

According to a person with knowledge of the evaluation, the examination being conducted by the Pentagon is still underway while that of the State Department was finished in March.

The postponement of its dissemination can be attributed, at least in part, to an interagency review process that was stacked with concerns over politics, optics, and the successful implementation of lessons learned.

According to the findings of the House report, the United States Embassy in Kabul did not hold an Operational Planning Team (OPT) meeting with members of the United States military and the United States diplomats until the middle of June 2021.

The meeting’s primary focus was on the pre-planning of non-combatant evacuation operations (NEO). One US military commander who was there at the conference described it as the “first time” that the embassy began “looking into the possibilities of NEO.”

The study indicates that five days into the NEO, evacuation flights “were taking off at just approximately 50% of their capacity.” This was a direct result of the “total lack of effective planning by the Biden administration.”

A government evacuation process so disorderly and chaotic that even staffers for Vice President Kamala Harris and First Lady Jill Biden were contacting outside groups to try to get people out was described to the committee by representatives of the outside groups who testified before the committee. The report makes reference to slow processing at the gates and mayhem outside the gates.

The majority of passengers aboard evacuation flights were male.

According to the findings of the report, the majority of those who were able to escape on the evacuation flights were men. This is even though there were concerns, which have since been validated, that women’s freedoms would be restricted after the Taliban took control of the country.

We now know, thanks to the statistics provided by the Departments of State and Homeland Security, that only about 25 per cent of the people who were evacuated in Afghanistan as a result of the NEO were female or female children.

“Historically, women and girls represent more than half of emergency refugee outflows,” Ambassador Kelley Currie, the ambassador-at-large for the State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues under the Trump administration, wrote in the report.

“To put this figure into context, historically, women and girls represent more than half of emergency refugee outflows.”

In response to the news, a senior administration official stated that women and girls make up 43% of the Afghan refugees who have been resettled in the United States as part of the Operation Allies Welcome programme over the past year.

Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, the then-head of US Central Command, and Zalmay Khalilzad, the then-special representative for Afghanistan who brokered the US-Taliban deal under Trump, met with Taliban officials in Doha as Kabul fell and the then-Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, fled the country.

The militant group offered the United States control of the security of the capital city of Kabul.

In his testimony before Congress in September 2021, McKenzie stated that he had declined the offer, explaining that “that was not why I was there, that was not my instruction, and we did not have the means to perform that task.”

According to the report, Khalilzad did share his opinion with the committee, stating that he believed “we might have considered it.” Furthermore, according to the former diplomat, the United States never issued an order to the Taliban to remain outside of Kabul.

Politics

“We didn’t say, ‘don’t go.’ “We cautioned them to use extreme caution,” Khalilzad was quoted as saying in the report. In the meantime, officials from the United States had been making it clear that their country was supportive of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Those who were trying to escape the city were then forced to contend with the danger posed by the Taliban as they made their way to the airport.

At the airport, thousands of people were gathered outside the gates, making a vain attempt to enter the airport and get on a flight.

And in the early days of the evacuation, the airport operation was so poorly run that groups of Afghans made it onto the airstrip and desperately tried to hold onto departing planes. This happened because the airport was poorly managed.

Given that the administration had handed over the authority of Kabul to the Taliban, the position was very difficult to manoeuvre from a strategic standpoint.

However, the decisions that they made, or in some cases failed to make, are what led to that strategically difficult circumstance, as McCaul explained.

Adrienne Watson, a spokesman for the National Security Council, stated that the report “advocates for everlasting war and for sending even more American troops to Afghanistan.” She also stated that the paper “is replete with misleading characterizations, cherry-picked information, and false claims.”

Amid this anarchy, the study asserts that the administration “repeatedly misled the American public” by attempting to gloss over the dire circumstances on the ground and instead create a picture of competence and advancement.

The report juxtaposes the comments made by officials of the State Department with internal memos, such as one from August 20 stating that at least seven Afghans had “died while waiting outside HKIA (Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul) access gates” and that the Taliban was “refusing to accept the remains” of the corpses that were being stored at the airport.

The report also states that the Taliban was “refusing to accept the remains” of the Afghans who had died while waiting outside

“At one point, the State Department spokesperson Ned Price was telling the press that the evacuation was ‘efficient and effective,’ but the airport gates were closed, and internal memos were talking about how there were too many dead bodies at the airport, and they don’t know how to deal with all of them,” McCaul said.

“The airport gates were closed, and internal memos were talking about how there were too many dead bodies at the airport, and they don’t know how to deal with all of them.”

The administration of Biden declined to participate.

The committee requested transcribed interviews with over thirty people in the administration, but the Biden administration declined to participate in the investigation.

The committee relied on interviews, the information provided by whistleblowers, interactions with persons who were in Kabul during the pullout, and fact-finding excursions to the region to compile the report.

The State Department rebutted the allegation that it had not complied with the oversight efforts of Congress by saying that it had done so.

“We have provided over 150 briefings to Members and staff on Afghanistan since the NEO, covering a wide range of topics—including the withdrawal, women and girls, relocation operations, counterterrorism, and talks with the Taliban,” said a spokesperson for the State Department, adding that Secretary of State Antony Blinken had testified at two hearings on Afghanistan.

“We have provided over 150 briefings to Members and staff on Afghanistan since the NEO, covering a wide range of topics,”

Although the Republicans who are leading this investigation are currently in the minority, which means that they do not have the power to issue subpoenas, they have indicated that should their party win control of the house in the elections this year, they will continue investigating the withdrawal and will issue subpoenas.

They are referring to this as an interim report, which suggests that they have plans to conduct additional research into the matter.

On Monday, McCaul appeared on CNN to discuss the possibility of the Republicans being able to force the administration to cooperate and said, “If we have the majority, that is going to change.” We are going to have the ability to give and subpoena witnesses.

According to the report, the administration did not take any actions — even several months after the withdrawal — that would have prevented American-trained Afghan commandos from being recruited by US adversaries such as Iran, China, or Russia. This information is included in the report.

About 600 members of the Afghan security force were evacuated by the United States government. These individuals helped with the evacuation by providing perimeter security and performing other functions.

However, these individuals only make up a very small portion of the U.S.-trained units that fought alongside American troops.

“And even those who were lucky enough to be flown out have found themselves stranded in third countries,” the study reads, adding that according to a SIGAR investigation from earlier this year, 3,000 Afghan security forces fled into Iran.

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According to the report, as of July, the administration of Vice President Joe Biden still did not have a strategy to prioritise the evacuation of these Afghans from the region, and the State Department was waiting on a policy decision from the National Security Council.

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