Poor planning led to ‘botched’ Afghan evacuation effort: Senate GOP report

tens of thousands Afghans who worked for the US government left behind in Afghanistan because the Biden administration failed to properly plan a large-scale evacuation, according to a forthcoming report by Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“From August 15 to 31, the United States completed its largest air evacuation. However, this evacuation was marred by a lack of planning, coordination and communication,” excerpts from the report obtained by NBC News.

“The administration failed to set up a clear system on how to contact evacuees and processes for admitting them to the airport. The result left US citizens, US legal permanent residents and Afghan allies to the fate of the Taliban regime,” the GOP senators said.

The forthcoming report, due to be released Thursday, is Congress’s first on evacuation efforts since the US’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan last year. House Republicans prepare a separate report.

After President Joe Biden announced his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in April, the government failed to make plans to evacuate Americans and Afghan partners until the U.S. military removed most of its troops and removed its key assets. air base north of Kabul had closed, the Senate GOP report said.

Leading Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator James Risch of Idaho, wrote in an introduction to the report that the Biden administration’s “dereliction of duty” enabled “a failed withdrawal leaving hundreds of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghan partners behind.”

He added: “The United States will have to deal with the consequences of this failure for years to come.”

The government’s failures came despite numerous indications and public reports that Afghan security forces were struggling to hold back the Taliban and that Afghans who had collaborated with US troops and diplomats were in growing danger, the report said.

It wasn’t until August 14, when Kabul was on the brink of a Taliban takeover, that the White House gave the go-ahead to begin evacuations, according to excerpts from the report.

“The government made a decision on evacuations from Afghanistan only until a meeting of the National Security Council’s deputy committee on August 14, just hours before the fall of Kabul,” it said.

Axios reported for the first time the session of the representatives of the National Security Council.

The summary of the conclusions of that meeting, according to the Senate report, “contained actions that should have been taken months in advance, including but not limited to: contacting third countries to serve as transit points, locally employed staff of the US embassy warn against relocation and set up communications/manifest team for flights from Kabul.”

“It is inexcusable that the [deputies committee] met at such a late date,” it read.

The NSC deputy commission was the highest-ranking group in the US government to assess warning signs from Kabul and assign tasks to government agencies to relocate Americans and Afghans, it said.

“There is no record provided that the [deputies committee] met anytime before August 14 to begin discussions on safe and orderly removals from Afghanistan,” it said.

White House NSC spokesperson Emily Horne told Axios that the “cherry-picked notes from one meeting do not reflect the months of work already underway.”

The Biden administration has reversed previous criticisms from lawmakers and refugee advocacy groups over how it handled the US withdrawal, saying intelligence services and military did not predict the Afghan government would collapse as quickly as it did. .

An NSC spokesperson told NBC News that the previous administration had “made no plans to ensure the safe evacuation of our Afghan allies” and passed a visa program for Afghan partners plagued by a huge backlog and a cumbersome application process. The Trump administration had also “deliberately gutted the US refugee resettlement program,” the spokesman said.

The Biden administration has ramped up resources and drastically reduced processing time for the special immigrant visa program, the spokesperson added.

The government also brought US troops into the region to prepare for a possible evacuation. “As we prepared to leave Afghanistan, we positioned military assets in the region that enabled us to conduct one of the largest airlifts in history, enabling the relocation of more than 120,000 people,” the spokesman said. .

The State Department has said that all Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave have left, and those who have stayed have chosen to stay because of relatives or relatives who do not have a US passport or visa.

According to excerpts from the report, Republican senators acknowledged that the Biden administration inherited a deeply flawed visa program designed to help Afghan interpreters and others who worked for the US government move to the United States. The special immigrant visa program has been plagued with backlogs at several administrations, they said.

But Republicans said the State Department should have considered the program’s shortcomings and planned to evacuate large numbers of Afghan candidates.

“With the Taliban on the hunt for those who assisted the United States, the state should have planned to relocate a significant number of these people,” the report said.

According to an excerpt, the Biden administration did not contact regional governments about the possibility of organizing evacuation flights until mid-July.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Armed Services Committee held a closed-door hearing on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan on Wednesday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

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