As Kabul teetered, the Biden administration was taking bureaucratic baby steps to decide how to respond to the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, according to a leaked document.
The document, which was published by Axios, shows that basic steps to prepare for the eventuality of the fall of the Afghan government were being taken on Aug. 14, 2021, the day before the Taliban swept into Kabul without opposition.
In its reporting, Axios said that the document revealed “just how unprepared the Biden administration was to evacuate Afghan nationals who’d helped the United States in its 20-year war against the Taliban.”
The document is headlined as the National Security Council’s “summary of conclusions” on the subject of “Relocations out of Afghanistan” after a Situation Room meeting.
Although the meeting was held as Taliban fighters were drawing a noose around Kabul, the meeting’s action items implied that there was endless time, as in its notation that officials in Kabul would begin chatting up local staff in Afghanistan “to begin to register their interest in relocation to the United States.”
This gap between reality and the Biden administration was noted at the time by those who tried and failed to get the administration to begin the process of relocating Afghan citizens who had been integral to the U.S. mission.
“I kept being told by people in the [White House] the thing they were most concerned about was the optics of a chaotic evacuation,” said Matt Zeller, a former CIA officer who made his first contact about evacuation six months before Kabul fell.
“They treated us like we were Chicken Little. They didn’t believe the sky was falling,” he said.
“On the 13th of July, we offered to work with them to help evacuate our partners. We all saw this disaster coming before the inevitable occurred. They didn’t get back to us until Aug 15, the day Kabul fell,” he said.
Mark Jacobson, who during the Obama era was a deputy NATO representative in Afghanistan, said the document shows that the most basic steps were not taken until panic spurred action.
“That so much planning, prioritizing and addressing of key questions had not been completed, even as Kabul was about to fall, underscores the absence of adequate interagency planning,” he said.
“This is especially surprising given the depth of experience on Afghanistan and contingency operations at that table,” he said.
At that meeting, for example, the State Department was tasked “to identify as many countries as possible to serve as transit points. Transit points need to be able to accommodate U.S. citizens, Afghan nationals, third country nationals, and other evacuees.”
The State Department was also, as of that date, to begin the process of communicating with those eligible for evacuation.
The document said a group that included Afghan pilots and female service members should be informed of their eligibility to be relocated “and advise them to be ready for a possible near-term evacuation.”
The Biden administration insisted it was better prepared than the documents made it appear.
“While we’re not going to comment on leaked internal documents, cherry-picked notes from one meeting do not reflect the months of work that were already underway,” NSC spokesperson Emily Horne said.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.