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A report from Army intelligence claims that the White House and Senior Pentagon staff did not grasp how quickly the Taliban was gaining control in Afghanistan before they removed troops.
It said that the officials at the White House and Pentagon resisted efforts by military officials to prepare for the evacuation of its embassy personnel and Afghan allies weeks prior, The Washington Post reported.
An Army investigative report, numbering 2,000 pages and released to The Washington Post through a Freedom of Information Act request, details the life-or-death decisions made daily by U.S. soldiers and Marines sent to secure Hamid Karzai International Airport as thousands converged on the airfield in a frantic bid to escape.
Beyond the bleak, blunt assessments of top military commanders, the documents contain previously unreported disclosures about the violence American personnel experienced, including one exchange of gunfire that left two Taliban fighters dead after they allegedly menaced a group of U.S. Marines and Afghan civilians, and a separate incident in which U.S. troops killed a member of an elite Afghan strike unit and wounded six others after they fired on the Americans.
The investigation was launched in response to an Aug. 26 suicide bombing just outside the airport that killed an estimated 170 Afghan civilians and 13 U.S. service members. But it is much broader, providing perhaps the fullest official account yet of the evacuation operation, which spanned 17 nightmarish days and has become one of the Biden administration’s defining moments — drawing scrutiny from Republicans and Democrats for the haphazard nature in which the United States ended its longest war.
Military personnel would have been “much better prepared to conduct a more orderly” evacuation, Navy Rear Adm. Peter Vasely, the top U.S. commander on the ground during the operation, told Army investigators, “if policymakers had paid attention to the indicators of what was happening on the ground.” He did not identify any administration officials by name, but said inattention to the Taliban’s determination to complete a swift and total military takeover undermined commanders’ ability to ready their forces.
In the report are witness statements from after the suicide bombing at the Kabul airport. It determined that single bomb packed with ball bearings was used in the attack.
The mission was able to evacuate around 124,000 people by midnight on August 31, 2021 and created a partnership with Taliban security forces to assist in the evacuation.
Critics of the mission said that hundreds of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans were left behind.
John Kirby, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, said that the airlift was a “historic achievement,”but Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin admitted it was “not perfect.”
“We are committed to, and are intensely engaged in, an ongoing review of our efforts during the evacuation, the assessments and strategy during the conflict, and the planning in the months before the end of the war,” the spokesman said. “We will take those lessons learned, and apply them, as we always do, clearly and professionally.”
U.S. Central Command Chief, Marine Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, said in an interview Tuesday that he was “not surprised” commanders had that some commanders believed that the mission could have been done better.
“But remember,” the chief said, “what did happen is we came together and executed a plan. There are profound frustrations; commanders, particularly subordinate commanders, they see very clearly the advantages of other courses of action. However, we had a decision, and we had an allocation of forces. You proceed based on that.”
There “might have been other plans that we would have preferred, he said, “but when the president makes a decision, it’s time for us to execute the president’s decision.”