Joe Biden and Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chief of staffs, claim that no one anticipated the Taliban would quickly take over Afghanistan when the U.S. pulled out. Secretary of State Blinken says the Taliban’s takeover “happened more quickly than we anticipated.”
But The Wall Street Journal reports that 23 State Department officials serving at the embassy in Kabul sent an internal memo to Blinken last month warning of the potential collapse of Kabul soon after the August 31 troop withdrawal deadline. That’s a far bleaker picture than the one Team Biden painted for us and planned for.
So Biden and Milley aren’t telling the truth. Nearly two dozen U.S. officials anticipated what Biden and Milley say no one did, and what Blinken says “we” didn’t.
The cable was sent via the State Department’s confidential dissent channel. It warned of rapid territorial gains by the Taliban and the subsequent collapse of Afghan security forces. Which, of course, is what occurred.
The cable also offered recommendations on ways to mitigate the crisis and speed up an evacuation, according to the Journal’s sources. One recommendation was to begin registering and collecting the personal data of Afghan interpreters and other allies who qualify for special immigrant visas to leave the country. Another was to begin evacuation flights no later than August 1.
Were these recommendations adopted? Were others that the diplomats proposed?
I don’t know, but we’ll find out. The House Foreign Affairs Committee has already asked Blinken to appear to discuss the administration’s planning for the withdrawal.
State Department spokesman Ned Price declined to address the cable in question. However, he did say that Blinken reads every dissent and “value[s] constructive internal dissent.” So at least we know that Blinken saw the grim predictions of the 23 officials, who were certainly in a position to know the state of play in Afghanistan.
But Blinken didn’t “value their dissent” enough to heed their warnings. Why didn’t Blinken take the views of his own diplomats on the ground more seriously?
I don’t know, but Blinken will soon have the opportunity to say. As noted, he’s been asked to appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee to explain.
Milley and Blinken should be fired, but Biden will be hard pressed to sack them as long as he keeps saying that nothing really went wrong in connection with our withdrawal from Afghanistan or, alternatively, that whatever went wrong was the fault of Donald Trump and the Afghans.
However, if the Taliban kills Americans or takes hostages, the pressure on Biden to sack some high level members of his team may well become irresistible. Unfortunately, there will be no sacking of Biden.