Blinken launches internal review of US evacuation of Afghanistan

Democrats and Republicans alike have blasted State Department and Pentagon for chaotic final days of America's longest war

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has announced an internal State Department review of America's rushed evacuation operation from Afghanistan in August.

Speaking at the Foreign Service Institute on Wednesday, Mr Blinken said the probe would investigate State Department efforts to fly more than 120,000 US and Afghan civilians out of Afghanistan at the last minute.

“I've ordered a series of internal reviews focused on our planning and execution for the evacuation and relocation effort in Afghanistan,” Mr Blinken said.

Democrats and Republicans alike have blasted the State Department and the Pentagon for the chaotic final days of America's longest war.

Though President Joe Biden hailed the operation as a success, thousands of Afghans, US citizens and green-card holders were left stranded in Afghanistan after the final US military flight departed on August 30.

“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 got to that decision more quickly?” Mr Blinken said.

Colin Clarke, a counterterrorism expert and director of policy research at the Soufan Group, described the probe as “crucial.”

“There needs to be greater transparency into how the events unfolded in Afghanistan. The Biden administration has been quick to highlight what it likes to portray as a success, but the evacuation was haphazard, cumbersome, and something that the administration was clearly unprepared for,” Mr Clarke told The National.

He noted that the review can offer lessons to future US administrations in preparing for such events.

“No internal review is ever going to undo the horrors of what we saw unfold in August. However, if the review is thorough, it can help the United States prepare for future, and hopefully identify the many shortcomings” of that operation.

Mr Blinken's review announcement came in a speech on modernising US diplomacy and expanding the State Department.

He wants to increase the department’s budget and hiring while pivoting to new challenges in the fields of cyber security, global health and climate change.

“I intend, with the support of Congress, to establish a new bureau for cyberspace and digital policy, headed by an ambassador at large, and to name a new special envoy for critical and emerging technology,” Mr Blinken said.

The US and its partners must “push back against those looking to undermine the integrity of the international system that we helped to build, to shape and to lead,” Mr Blinken said.

He also stressed the need to establish better global health security to prevent, detect and mitigate future pandemics.

Updated: October 27th 2021, 8:49 PM
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