An internal review has determined that the US State Department was ill-prepared for the rapid collapse of the Afghan government in 2021, further deepening criticism of America’s turbulent retreat from the country.
The “After Action Review” (AAR), released this Friday, acknowledges the department could have better anticipated the downfall of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital.
According to Friday’s report, the decisions by US President Biden and former President Donald Trump to pull out American forces from Afghanistan had significant repercussions for the stability of the U.S.-backed Afghan government. It reads, “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.”
The report focuses on the State Department for not creating a crisis-management task force that could have overseen the situation in Afghanistan and effectively coordinated with the Pentagon in the event of an evacuation. The report stated, “Establishing such a task force earlier would have brought key players together to address issues related to a possible [evacuation].” The Pentagon was making arrangements for an evacuation operation, yet the planning was impeded because it was unclear who at the State Department was in charge.
Following Kabul’s fall, US troops – confined to an area around the city’s airport until their final withdrawal at the end of August 2021 – directed a two-week operation to evacuate US citizens and distressed Afghans. This evacuation was impacted by a suicide bombing by the Afghanistan branch of ISIL (ISIS) that claimed the lives of at least 175 people, including 13 US service members.
The fallout from the Afghanistan withdrawal led to a flurry of criticism, particularly from Republican quarters, directed at President Biden. Despite this, he has defended his decision to conclude the “forever war,” which, after 20 years, had become the longest armed conflict for the United States.