United States President Joe Biden’s administration has laid the blame for America’s dire Afghanistan troop withdrawal on decisions made by predecessor Donald Trump.
The White House released what it described as a “hotwash” report into the policies in place around the time forces withdrew in 2021, ending the longest running conflict in its history.
It says decisions made by the 45th president “severely constrained” the current administration’s choices about how to conduct the withdrawal, listing a series of events it claims laid the groundwork for the chaotic scenes which unfolded two years ago.
“President Trump ordered direct talks with the Taliban without consulting with our allies and partners or allowing the Afghan government at the negotiating table,” it says, referencing the beginnings of the Doha Agreement which was reached in 2020 after two years of negotiations.
The report added “publicly considering” inviting Taliban officials to Camp David on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks and pressuring the Afghan government to release thousands of fighters from prison “without securing the release of the only American hostage,” as key steps which “emboldened” the organisation.
It then accused the former president of making rapid reductions in troop numbers during his final 11 months in office, which cumulated in the Taliban holding the “strongest military position that they had been in since 2001”.
Speaking after the report’s release, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that the incoming Biden Administration had asked to see plans for managing the withdrawal of remaining forces, but “none were forthcoming.”
“President Biden’s choice was stark,” he said.
“Either withdraw all our forces or resume fighting with the Taliban.”
The report was not drafted independently, but instead was put together by the National Security Council with input from President Biden himself.
However, while it does heavily criticise the Trump Administration there are also acknowledgements of the shortcomings in intelligence and planning which marred the process.
It admits that the evacuation of Americans and allies from Afghanistan should have started sooner, although with a caveat that the delay was due to US government desire to preserve international confidence in the Afghani administration and that judgements about the “willingness to fight” of Afghan forces were overly optimistic.
“Clearly we didn’t get it right,” said Mr Kirby, although he stressed the report was about “understanding” and not the accountability of the current administration.
In a sign of the White House’s current focus, the report is littered with references to Ukraine and links between planning and decision-making approaches across both conflicts.
Referencing the chaotic evacuation of diplomats in Afghanistan, the report says the US government now prioritises “earlier evacuations when faced with a degrading security situation.”
“In Ukraine, we decided to evacuate personnel nearly two weeks before Russia’s invasion, despite concerns by some close allies, partners, and the Ukrainians themselves that doing so would undermine confidence in Ukraine,” it said.
“This decision resulted in an orderly departure and enabled our teams to safely carry out critical functions remotely.”
News Source: www.skynews.com.au