U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, this week published a report entitled “ Left Behind: A Brief Assessment of the Biden Administration’s Strategic Failures during the Afghanistan Evacuation ,” to give an overview of what went wrong in the planning and execution of the Biden Administration’s hazardous withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“While there is substantial disagreement about the policy to leave Afghanistan, Americans share outrage over how the United States withdrew last August, and what that failure has done to America’s standing in the world,” said Risch. “My report describes how the Biden Administration’s failure of duty allowed for a quick Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and a botched withdrawal that left hundreds of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghan partners behind. The United States will have to deal with the fallout of this failure for years to come, so it is imperative that we mitigate the strategic implications to ensure we do not repeat mistakes.”
Key findings of the report include:
The Biden Administration did not hold a senior-level interagency meeting to discuss an evacuation or formally task the State Department (State) to contact at risk populations, including Americans, until August 14, just hours before Kabul fell.
The Biden Administration:
Failed to do any contingency planning for worst-case scenarios.
Ignored intelligence reports about the risk of an imminent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
Disregarded dissent cables from Foreign Service Officers on the front lines.
Abandoned Bagram Air Base based on arbitrary troop caps and political considerations, hampering the evacuations and the reinserted troops.
Failed to take significant steps to improve the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program despite clear evidence that the program was flawed.
The Biden Administration failed to protect:
American citizens in Afghanistan – thousands of Americans and Legal Permanent Residents were left behind.
Afghan partners – tens of thousands of SIV applicants were left behind, jeopardizing America’s credibility and ability to recruit partners in the future.
The botched withdrawal damaged U.S. credibility with our allies.
Key recommendations of the report include:
Develop a new system for accounting U.S. citizens overseas.
Properly resource consular services and immigration personnel.
State and the Department of Defense should:
Review their memorandum of agreement for noncombatant evacuation operations.
Use an updated Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker system to track SIV employment.
Improve transparency and coordination efforts with Congress.
A copy of the full SFRC minority report can be found here.