Deputy Secretary of State Claims That the 'Process Worked' for the Afghanistan Mission and Everything You Know Is Wrong

AP Photo/Rahmat Gul

By any conceivable measure, the US evacuation was a disgrace. We know that thousands of Afghans holding special immigration visas (SIV) were left behind. We know hundreds, if not thousands, of American citizens and green card holders, were also left behind. US troops turned away some American citizens from Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA…or whatever they are calling it today) and prevented them from leaving Afghanistan (see Shocking Texts Reveal Army Major Knew Americans Waving Passports Were Abandoned at Kabul Airport).

Our partners in this enterprise, the Taliban, hindered Americans and SIV holders from entering HKIA (see Biden Team’s ‘Helpful’ Taliban Told State Dept to Go ‘F**k Themselves’ as They Blocked Americans From Kabul Airport). Suspected terrorists and sex offenders were evacuated, while American school kids were left behind. Many Afghans who did succeed in leaving may have been subjects of human trafficking rather than humanitarian efforts; see Joe Biden’s ‘Historic’ Afghanistan Evacuation Turned Into a Sex Slavery Market.

As this mess was gathering velocity on its downhill roll into the cesspool of history, I predicted…correctly…that the Biden bunch would try to portray this as a major success. See, for instance, The Gaslighting Begins as Biden Sycophants Claim the Kabul Catastrophe Will Make Biden and America Stronger and If You Think Afghanistan Is a Disaster You’re Missing the Big Picture. Get Ready to Be Told It Is the New Berlin Airlift. That narrative seems to be too much even for the supine, sluttish national media to buy, so now we’ve entered a phase of Sauve qui peut, every man for himself (‘Forever War’ Continues as Defense, State, and the Intelligence Community Blame Each Other for the Criminal Debacle in Afghanistan).

The Defense Department has been particularly active in this endeavor (The SecDef Lloyd Austin and CJCS Mark Milley Afghanistan Press Conference Had the Qualities of a James Bond Martini), but the State Department is in the running.

For reasons that I don’t understand, someone at State has decided that the best means to “set the record straight” on the Afghan debacle and recognize the greatness and majesty that is the US Department of State is to run articles by a stump-trained poseur who writes behind the paywall at The Daily Beast. I covered the antics of David Rothkopf in The Gaslighting Begins as Biden Sycophants Claim the Kabul Catastrophe Will Make Biden and America Stronger, as he tried to explain that the disastrous finale to our Afghan adventure was actually part of a Joe Biden masterplan to “reset” American policy.

Presumably, this new future requires humiliating policy failures broadcast to the entire world. Now he’s back with another episode of MST3K–State Department Edition. The latest post, again behind The Daily Beast paywall, is Inside the State Department’s Afghanistan Evacuation. This is the lede:

Almost everything you think you know about how the United States Department of State handled the evacuation from Afghanistan is wrong. And not just wrong, but so egregiously wrong you have to ask yourself why.

The narrative has been that State was caught flat-footed by the events following the fall of Kabul in mid-August, turning its back on Americans and our Afghan allies while damaging the United States’ standing in the world. None of this is true.

Hilarity ensues.

The State Department sent out the first of its 19 alerts urging American citizens to leave Afghanistan in April of this year. The Department’s Afghan coordination task force was stood up on July 20—17 days before the fall of Nimroz, the first provincial capital in Afghanistan to be claimed by the Taliban.

Okay. Trump leaves office in January. At that time, the scheduled withdrawal was May 2021. State organized an “Afghan coordination task force” on July 20, two weeks after Bagram Airbase was abandoned. Yeppers. They were definitely leaning forward on this. Even giving the benefit of a doubt because, in April, Joe Biden changed the withdrawal date to September 11, this doesn’t look any better. They wasted seven precious months doing jacksh**. It really begs the question of what would have happened had the May withdrawal date remained fixed.

The task force’s first objective was to make sure we got American citizens out and Special Immigrant Visas for Afghan nationals processed. As one senior State Department official noted to me, “We inherited a backlog of thousands of SIVs. There is a statutorily defined 14-step process for approving the visas. We dramatically accelerated the process. We did this even after a COVID outbreak had effectively closed the embassy. We did this in the face of a rapidly accelerating security problem.”

The backlog existed in part because former President Donald Trump and his aide Stephen Miller actively blocked the program for our Afghan (as well as our Iraqi) allies. The Biden State Department not only had to undo the damage that had been done, they had to do so in a country where the security situation was deteriorating rapidly (also in part due to Trump-era prisoner releases and a hastily negotiated deal between Trump and the Taliban that bypassed the official Afghan government altogether.)

The first SIV flight departed Kabul on July 29 with over 220 people on board. That was long before the serial collapse of Afghan provincial capitals that culminated in the encirclement and then fall of the Afghan capital on August 15. By the time that happened, nearly 2,000 SIV applicants and their families had been flown to the United States.

This is utter hogwash.

No matter how you cut it, this is a cretinous explanation. Any decision to close the US embassy during a transition of power demonstrates the unabashed stupidity of the people calling the shots. They may have inherited a backlog, but there is scant evidence they did anything to accelerate the process. They can blame President Trump and Stephen Miller all they want, but the fact remains that the State Department had seven months to remove obstacles and accelerate processing. They didn’t.

This is how Foreign Policy, hardly a right-wing outlet, described the situation:

The challenge of resettling them should have been foreseen, said Adam Bates, who serves as a policy counsel at the International Refugee Assistance Project. “The U.S. government has had 20 years to anticipate and plan, and it’s unconscionable that we’ve gotten to such a late hour.”

Biden administration officials said on Wednesday [editor’s note: that would be August 18] thiw would be  they were surging resources to Afghanistan to manage the frenzied evacuation effort, and they vowed to help these Afghans obtain special immigrant visas (SIVs). State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a press briefing on Thursday that as of that afternoon, 6,000 people had been processed at Kabul’s airport and were waiting to board flights out of the country. Price said the U.S. government has evacuated around 7,000 people from the airport since Aug. 14 [editor’s note: the final evacuation total for SIVs plus family members was 8,500]. The administration has dubbed the evacuation campaign “Operation Allies Refuge.”

In other words, the backlog of some 18,000 visa applications that existed when Joe Biden was selected as president was not processed. That was largely because the State Department did not start pushing resources into Kabul until 13 days before the evacuation deadline.

An initial and ongoing focus of the task force has been getting those who sought to exit Afghanistan out of the country. While their work has been far from the spotlight, it has been extraordinarily effective and was essential to the unprecedented airlifting of 124,000 people out of Afghanistan in just over two weeks.

Here’s the problem. If we evacuated 8,500 Afghan SIV holders and 6,000 Americans were evacuated, who the hell were the other 110,000? Why is airlifting some 100,000 people about whom we know very little, while leaving behind an unknown number of SIV holders and Americans, something to be celebrated as a success?

Then there is this howler.

According to the State Department, from the earliest days of this operation, an extraordinary effort to identify Americans and others who needed to get out took place. Every American in Afghanistan was identified and directly contacted, often repeatedly. According to State Department estimates, over 55,000 calls were made and over 33,000 texts were sent as part of this effort. U.S. embassies in Mexico, India and other places far from the action set up call centers to enable this complex coordination. Through this process, almost all the Americans in Afghanistan who sought to leave have been able to do so.

Of the 100 to 200 Americans estimated to be remaining in country, their cases continue to get attention and President Biden has reiterated his commitment to get all of them out who want to go. “While it might seem hard for many Americans watching the scenes from Kabul on television to imagine, the decision to leave has been a hard one for many,” a senior State Department official said. “Many of the remaining Americans are dual citizens—both Afghan and American. Many have created their lives in Afghanistan and often have extensive families and ties to their communities. We have families who say they don’t want to go and then the next day they say, yes they do. We have families who say they are leaving and then they do not show up to depart. We are continuing to work intensively on this.”

And yet, at no point during the fiasco could the first openly gay (I only mention it because Wikipedia thinks it is important enough to include; I think the operative word there is “openly”) State Department spokesman Ned Price give the number of US citizens in Afghanistan. So, if they are going to assert that this was a success because only a couple of hundred Americans were left behind, they need to produce a firm number of Americans in Afghanistan when this fiasco started, and let us judge for ourselves.
This is how Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman describes the travesty of Kabul.

Sherman is candid about the misperceptions that have surrounded State’s role in this process. “There was a rapid collapse. But we adapted. The process actually worked. It had to be constantly reinvented on the fly because you would figure out one way to handle things and then that had to be shut down because of security and then we had to figure out another way. But even the day after that horrific attack, within 24 hours we had another 12,500 people out. That is the real story here. The commitment and courage of all the people involved in my view was extraordinary.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but State did not manage the airspace at HKIA nor fly aircraft. Defense did that part. So her taking credit for something that she had no responsibility for is a rather low-rent act. The boast of 12,500 people flying out is likewise thin gruel. Only 14,000 SIVs and US citizens were evacuated.

What this story amounts to is an uncritical transcription of the State Department’s case for its defense. It is not reporting. It peddles lies without any attempt to fact-check them. It is the fellatio-journalism we’ve come to expect whenever a Democrat president gets into trouble. There are problems with this particular story that merit identification. First and foremost, Wendy Sherman, the source for the story, has so little respect for the “reporter” or the outlet that she doesn’t even attempt to construct a factually plausible narrative. In her story, the world starts around July 20.

The second problem is that any organization that participated in this goat-f*** and comes away from it boasting of its performance is sick and beyond salvage. It will do nothing to avoid this performance in the future — because its leadership is telling it that the criminal failure of the State Department, a failure that will ultimately result in 10-20,000 summary executions of SIV applicants who were left behind, is the way to do business.

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