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Leaked notes from a meeting held by senior Biden administration officials in the White House Situation Room the day before Kabul fell last August — in fact, as Kabul was falling — reveal the level of inadequate preparation for such an event by President Joe Biden.
The notes were first reported by Axios, which characterized them as revealing Biden's "failures" on Afghanistan.
What are the details?
The meeting of the National Security's Council's so-called Deputies Small Group — which Axios explained as a group of senior aides to Cabinet members, who meet to work out "practical details for executing decisions already made by their bosses" — took place on Aug. 14 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. EST.
The meeting was chaired by Liz Sherwood-Randall, an NSC official.
Decisions that were made at the meeting included:
- The State Department "will immediately stand up a communications/manifest’ team which will be responsible for notifying individuals from various priority lists of their travel eligibility and collect biographic information for all travelers to be manifested."
- The State Department and Defense Department will attempt "to manifest at least 5,000 individuals for relocation per day from Afghanistan."
- "State will work to identify as many countries as possible to serve as transit points. Transit points need to be able to accommodate U.S. citizens, Afghan nationals, third country nationals, and other evacuees."
- "Embassy Kabul will notify LES [locally employed staff] to begin to register their interest in relocation to the United States and begin to prepare immediately for departure."
Such action points, all of which leaders said needed to be addressed "immediately," show the "crucial actions" the Biden administration had yet to take as the Taliban were entering Kabul, Axios explained.
The notes underscore criticism of Biden in the days and months after the fall of Afghanistan. Critics have said the Biden administration overestimated the Afghan national military's ability to withstand the Taliban, underestimated the speed with which the Taliban were seizing control of Afghanistan, and therefore did not sufficiently prioritize evacuating Americans and American allies from the country, including Afghans who helped American forces in country.
The unpreparedness resulted in mass chaos at the international airport in Kabul, which, as the world unfortunately learned, became a target for terrorism. The problems caused by Biden's unprepared and hasty exit from Afghanistan remain today.
How did the Biden administration respond?
NSC spokesperson Emily Horne said the NSC would not comment on "cherry-picked" notes, which Horne claimed distort and do not show planning that allegedly took place in the months before Kabul fell.
"While we're not going to comment on leaked internal documents, cherry-picked notes from one meeting do not reflect the months of work that were already under way," Horne told Axios.
"Earlier that summer, we launched Operation Allies Refuge and had worked with Congress to pass legislation that gave us greater flexibility to quickly relocate Afghan partners," Horne added. "It was because of this type of planning and other efforts that we were able to facilitate the evacuation of more than 120,000 Americans, legal permanent residents, vulnerable Afghans and other partners."
Indeed, Biden continues to staunchly defend his Afghanistan chaos, saying just last month that he has "no apologies" to offer.
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Chris Enloe is a staff writer for Blaze News