Biden more unprepared for Afghan withdrawal than previously known: report

The State Department was still identifying countries to send evacuees to.

Updated: February 3, 2022 - 9:57pm

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The Biden administration was still unsure on basic parts of evacuation from Afghanistan hours before the Taliban seized control of Kabul, according to a leaked memo obtained by Axios.

The National Security Council document was dated for the afternoon of Aug. 14, 2021. The next day, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled as Jihadist militants overtook the capital and reestablished the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

The State Department and Department of Defense were instructed to "begin planning transit processing for evacuees after departure from Kabul." This included coordinating COVID-19 tests and other screenings after leaving Afghanistan but before moving to a final destination.

Littered with the word "immediately," the executive memo stated the State Department would "work to identify as many countries as possible" to bring evacuees to as transit points.

The agencies were instructed to "manifest at least 5,000 individuals for relocation per day from Afghanistan," per the memo obtained by Axios.

The National Security Council was unsure at the time whether Afghan foreign nationals with family members who are U.S. citizens needed to be screened before being brought to the United States, according to the document.

During the meeting, the memo shows that the Biden officials came to an agreement on who would be given priority evacuation status, such as U.S. citizens, embassy personnel and allies whom the government had an agreement to evacuate coming first.

When considering which Afghans to evacuate, the Biden administration was still unsure whether additional relatives outside of nuclear family units could be included, the leaked document states.

NSC spokesperson Emily Horne told Axios: "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 underway."

Horne told Axios that because of Operation Allies Refuge and other planning over the summer, "we were able to facilitate the evacuation of more than 120,000 Americans, legal permanent residents, vulnerable Afghans and other partners."

President Joe Biden is facing renewed criticism by some for his handling of Afghanistan while Russia appears to be on the verge of invading Ukraine.