A U.S. Marine calms a child during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 26, 2021. A State Department report issued Friday found the United States didn't plan properly for a rapid collapse of the Afghan government. File Photo by Sgt. Samuel Ruiz/USMC/UPI | License Photo
July 1 (UPI) -- The administrations of Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden failed to properly consider a worst-case scenario when planning for a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, according to a long-awaited official report.
The State Department submitted its "After Action Review" on the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan on Friday.
The assessment is highly critical of the Biden Administration's handling of the leadup to the withdrawal and urges the creation of a "red team" to "challenge underlying assumptions."
The report, however, also emphasizes the unprecedented nature of the challenge Washington faced during the stunningly rapid Taliban takeover of the country in the summer of 2021.
"The scope and scale of this evacuation was highly unusual, with no comparable situation since the U.S. departure from Vietnam in 1975 following many years of intense military and political involvement," the State Department said.
With the sudden collapse of the Afghan government and the Taliban's entry into Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021, the United States was "confronted a task of unprecedented scale and complexity," the report said.
State Department personnel helped coordinate and execute "a massive humanitarian airlift and evacuation from a dangerous and often chaotic environment in barely more than two weeks," the authors wrote.
The report stressed that U.S. personnel were still able to coordinate in response to the crisis despite major failures in planning, noting that the "risks of the situation are hard to exaggerate" and resulted in "tremendous burdens on the Department's personnel and its crisis response structures."
Overall, the authors found, U.S. personnel responded with "great agility, determination, and dedication."
The review also focused on the importance of better planning for "worst-case-scenarios," contending that a rapid collapse of the Afghan government and its security forces following a U.S. withdrawal had long been seen as a possibility, although estimates varied as to how long such a collapse might take.
U.S. officials are also faulted for not making more preparations for large-scale evacuations.
"As the Taliban's territorial gains continued during the early summer of 2021, there was increasing alarm in many circles that led to calls for more urgent preparations for an evacuation, if not launch the evacuation itself," the report said.
While the Afghan government under Ashraf Ghani comes in for criticism for failing to provide accurate assessments of the military situation, the State Department still could have done more to evacuate civilians, the authors found.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley deliver remarks about the end of the 20-year military mission in Afghanistan at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va., on September 1. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo