President Joe Biden wanted out of the Afghanistan War in the worst way

On April 14, 2021, President Biden made his withdrawal announcement regarding U.S. troops in Afghanistan.  Over the next few months, contrary to most Americans’ expectations, as the U.S. left, the U.S.-supported Afghan government lost more and more territory to the resurgent Taliban.  On August 15, 2021, the U.S.-supported Afghan government collapsed.  This shouldn’t have been a complete surprise. 

American officials were reportedly warned that Afghanistan’s air force could not sustain itself without U.S. support.  In particular, it’s been recently reported that the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan (SIGAR) released a report in January 2021 predicting this precise outcome.  The SIGAR Report points to the U.S. failure to train Afghan support staff, leaving the air force unable to maintain its aircraft without American contractors. 

“U.S. air support to government forces was key in the 20-year-war against Taliban insurgents.  Its removal — along with the inability of the Afghan air force to fill the void — was one factor that contributed to the Taliban’s sweeping victory as the Americans withdrew.” 

American authorities had also been warned by the State Department diplomats on the ground that a full collapse of the Afghan government was imminent.  American authorities then had to negotiate with the Taliban – whose fighters fought alongside al Qaeda terrorists – to allow the U.S. military to remove American citizens, third country nationals, and vulnerable Afghans from Kabul.  This evacuation concluded on August 30, 2021.

The evacuation was incredibly chaotic and disorganized, and its success has been mixed and very unclear.  Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, was forced to admit that “(w)e did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out.”  The U.S. flew over 122,000 people out of Kabul.  These included a mix of U.S. citizens, green card holders, recipients of a special immigrant visa (SIV) for helping the U.S. military or diplomats, refugees, and others seeking asylum.

Around 6000 American citizens were among those evacuated, but another 100-200 U.S. citizens – or more – may have been left behind.  Also, according to the Wall Street Journal, many of the 100,000 Afghan nationals flown out of that country lacked visas or paperwork to be admitted.  Nevertheless, nearly 70,000 have been allowed to enter the United States.  Ten of these Afghan evacuees who had been brought to the United States have since been detained as national security risks.  Meanwhile, U.S. immigration officials did not even process 20,000 SIV applications for interpreters who worked with U.S. forces in the run up to the collapse of the Afghan government, as The New Yorker has reported.

The U.S. also abandoned a huge amount of military equipment in the rush to leave Kabul safely.  The price tag for this may be as high as $18 billion dollars’ worth, including aircraft, armored vehicles and sophisticated defensive systems.    All of this equipment is now in the hands of the Taliban, some of which may well be used against American soldiers or citizens in the future.

These facts raise a number of questions.  How widely was the SIGAR Report shared with senior military and government officials? Was it shared with the President and his senior advisors prior to the April announcement? Did the State Department memo reach the proper administration officials?  How many U.S. citizens were left behind in Afghanistan?  How much equipment did we lose to the Taliban?  Exactly whom did we airlift into the continental U.S.?  Were these Afghan nationals vetted properly?  Were national security threats barred from entry?  The federal government has, up to now, refused to level with the American people about the full facts of the 2021 Afghanistan withdrawal.  And the U.S. public deserves to know the full and complete truth.  In my experience as a staffer on Capitol Hill, this is where the U.S. Congress should come in, to conduct meaningful oversight over the Executive Branch, regardless of the partisan composition of either branch.

My organization, the Center to Advance Security in America (CASA), will also fill that gap.  CASA is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving the safety and security of the American people.  CASA educates and informs them about the actions of their government and its officials that impact their safety; peace and security; democracy, civil rights, and civil liberties; and privacy.  To educate and inform American citizens, CASA has requested that all this information regarding the withdrawal from Afghanistan be released by the U.S. government through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  We believe that only by shining a bright light on the truth can we ensure something like this never happens again.

Photo credit: YouTube screengrab (cropped)

Adam Turner is the Director of the Center to Advance Security in America.

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