The U.S. Department of State has released a critical formal evaluation of the United States’ chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, placing blame on both the Trump and Biden administrations. The State Department conducted more than 150 interviews over a 90-day period to compile the report, which was published on Friday. Importantly, 13 American service members lost their lives in a suicide bombing at Kabul’s airport during the controversial withdrawal, which ended on August 30, 2021.

The report concludes that both President Trump and President Biden had “insufficient senior-level consideration” of the potential problems that could arise during a withdrawal. According to the report, “The decisions of both President Trump and President Biden to end the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan had serious consequences for the viability of the Afghan government and its security. While these decisions are beyond the scope of this review, the AAR team found that during both administrations, there was insufficient senior-level consideration of worst-case scenarios and the speed at which they might occur.”

The report highlighted that there was no clear point of contact at the State Department regarding the NEO (non-combatant evacuation operation). While the U.S. military plans for such operations, the report criticized the State Department for lacking leadership in this area. “U.S. military planning for a possible NEO had been underway for some time, but the Department’s participation in the NEO planning process was hindered by the fact that it was unclear who in the Department had the lead,” stated the report. It suggested that appointing a specific principal at the State Department would have improved coordination and communication.

On Friday, a senior State Department official discussed how the lessons learned from the Afghanistan withdrawal could impact the American response to the conflict in Ukraine. “We’ve already internalized many of these painful lessons and applied them in subsequent crises, most notably in how we manage the Russian invasion in Ukraine…and in some of the aspects of our response to the crisis in Sudan a couple of months ago,” explained the official.

U.S. soldiers stand guard along a perimeter at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021.

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