Blinken Orders Review of US Withdrawal From Afghanistan

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that he had ordered a full-scale review of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan in August as the U.S. ended its two-decade fight against terrorism there.

In a hastily arranged airlift, the U.S. and its allies evacuated more than 124,000 civilians, including Americans, Afghans and others, as the Taliban took swift control of the Kabul government while Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled to exile in the United Arab Emirates.

But thousands of other Afghans linked to the U.S. occupation of their country were left behind as the evacuation ended, although some have managed to get out of the country in the last two months. During the evacuation from the Kabul airport, 13 American service members were killed in a bomb attack orchestrated by the Afghan offshoot of the Islamic State terrorist group.

Blinken, speaking at the Foreign Service Institute outside Washington to a group of lawmakers, diplomats and others, said, "I’ve ordered a series of internal reviews focused on our planning and execution for the evacuation and relocation effort in Afghanistan."

Blinken praised the State Department’s evacuation effort but said the agency needs to learn from it as well, in case the U.S. ever confronts a similar situation calling for a rapid withdrawal from a war zone.

"There are many things that now, looking back, we can and should ask: Could we have done things differently? Could we have taken that step differently? Should we have tried that idea first? Could we have gotten to that decision more quickly?" Blinken said.

The top U.S. diplomat did not spell out details of the review. But he said, “We owe it to ourselves, to our Afghan friends and partners, and to the future State Department employees who might find themselves facing a similar challenge one day to capture all that we learned, to study it, to apply it, to preserve it in a way that it enhances our future planning and helps us prepare better for future contingencies."

U.S. news outlets reported last week that the State Department's inspector general would review the end of diplomatic operations in Afghanistan, while also looking into the Special Immigrant Visa program, which allowed Afghans to be admitted to the U.S. as refugees, and their resettlement in the United States.

Source: Voice of America