But the many reasons it didn’t have to be this way are already coming into clearer focus.
Start with the decision made sometime before Independence Day 2021 for the July 6 U.S. pullout from Bagram Airfield, the massive operations and supply center for air power, the decisive element of the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan.
That the Bagram withdrawal was pulled off at night without prior notice to our Afghan allies was a huge warning sign of the epic disaster President Joe Biden was setting about. Watching closely were the Taliban, Beijing, Moscow, and numerous other centers of evil in the modern world.
But not only was Bagram the heart of U.S. air cover for its own withdrawing forces and for those it built up in the Afghan military, Bagram was an essential asset in the inevitable evacuation of tens of thousands of American civilians and Afghans who helped the U.S.
Bagram could also have provided decisive leverage for the U.S. in the post-withdrawal period, especially in the event of the Taliban victory over the central Afghan government in Kabul. It’s not entirely analogous, but the U.S. ability to maintain its naval base at Guantanamo in Cuba is instructive in this regard.
Another key decision that was made prior to Independence Day didn’t prompt an embarrassingly well-publicized midnight departure because it was carried out behind closed bureaucratic doors in Foggy Bottom.
That was the “pausing” of a special program then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo established to coordinate and expedite the emergency evacuation of U.S. forces and civilians in crisis situations.
Pompeo saw the need for special capabilities that weren’t coalesced in the State Department, so, being a military veteran, he set in motion the creation and establishment of the Crisis and Contingency Response (CCR) bureau.
The key task assigned to CCR was logistically coordinating the multiple official elements required to do a successful mass evacuation. And as it happens, the Pompeo team had already conducted such an evacuation on a worldwide scale that brought home the need for something like the CCR.
That was the return of an estimated 100,000 Americans from points around the world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, beginning with the rescue of 800 in Wuhan, China, ground zero of the international disaster that has since killed more than three million people, including in excess of 660,000 Americans.
Pompeo gave the official go-ahead to stand up the CCR in September 2020. Congress was informed in November and the program was in place and available to President Joe Biden and his Secretary of State Anthony Blinken when they took over the White House and the State Department in January 2021.
But instead of taking full advantage of CCR in their planning for the withdrawal, Biden and Blinken decided to kill the program. They called it “pausing” for a “policy review,” but anybody who knows anything about bureaucratese knows that’s another way of saying “we’re putting this one in the deep freeze, never to be seen again.”
And so they did. Now there are unknown thousands of Americans trapped in Afghanistan, subj….