Biden's Afghanistan report blames Trump for chaotic U.S. withdrawal
President Joe Biden's administration on Thursday released a summary of classified reports that mostly blamed the chaotic August 2021 U.S. pullout from Afghanistan on his predecessor, Donald Trump, for failing to plan for the withdrawal he had agreed on with the Taliban.
The Democratic administration's summary, drawn from top-secret State Department and Pentagon reviews sent to Congress, ignited angry reactions from Republican lawmakers who have demanded the documents for their own investigation of the pullout.
Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee, strongly criticized the administration. Biden ordered the pullout and was "responsible for the massive failures in planning and execution," McCaul said in a statement.
McCaul, who is overseeing the Republican probe, charged that his multiple threats to subpoena the State Department and Pentagon reviews, which were completed last year, finally compelled the administration to send them to Congress.
"President Biden's choices for how to execute a withdrawal from Afghanistan were severely constrained by conditions created by his predecessor," said the summary of the reviews. "The outgoing administration provided no plans for how to conduct the final withdrawal or to evacuate Americans or Afghan allies."
The document acknowledged that the administration learned lessons from the withdrawal, and now errs on the side of "aggressive communication" about risks in a destabilized security environment.
The Trump administration also "gutted" refugee support services and virtually halted the processing of Special Immigration Visas for thousands of Afghans seeking evacuation because they worked for the U.S. government, leaving a massive backlog, the summary said.
"Transitions matter. That's the first lesson learned here. And the incoming administration wasn't afforded much of one," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told a White House briefing.
The 12-page summary placed some responsibility for the chaos of the pullout and evacuation operation on flawed U.S. intelligence and military assessments that failed to foresee the speed of the Taliban takeover and predicted that Afghan security forces would hold Kabul.
"As late as May 2021, the assessment was still that Kabul would probably not come under serious pressure until late 2021 after U.S. troops departed," the summary said.
Pressed on whether Biden bore any responsibility for the Kabul airport disorder, Kirby replied, "Just by dint as the commander in chief, he assumed responsibility for the orders he gives."
(Cover: British and American security forces maintain outside the Abbey Gate, where Afghan evacuees crammed together in a canal and any open space, wait to be evacuated, in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 25, 2021. /CFP)