ecretary of State Antony Blinken’s team is drawing new criticism for mismanaging the evacuation from Afghanistan, and this time, the call is coming from inside the house.
“There was a general consensus that Kabul would fall and it would fall across the backs of the people who were closest to the United States the hardest. And it was inevitably going to lead to panic,” a State Department official told Politico. “So I don’t think it was an intelligence failure. I think it was a management failure.”
That rebuke amplifies the criticism that Blinken has faced on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers in both parties have rejected the Biden administration’s claim that intelligence officials failed to anticipate the Taliban’s rapid victory. The chaotic August evacuation left many State Department officials struggling with their inability to help desperate Afghan colleagues.
Blinken’s team, meanwhile, worries that Americans caught in Ethiopia’s civil war may see the Afghanistan evacuation as a model for their own escape.
“There are no plans to fly the U.S. military into Ethiopia to facilitate evacuations or replicate the contingency effort we recently undertook in Afghanistan, which was a unique situation for many reasons,” a senior State Department official said during a Wednesday background briefing. “There should be no expectation, particularly after we have issued so many warnings that advise departing immediately, that the U.S. will be able to facilitate evacuation via military or commercial aircraft in a nonpermissive environment, including Ethiopia.”
That message sharpens the point that Blinken has made by invoking the departure advisories issued by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul in the months prior to the U.S. military exit from Afghanistan.
“The airport was functioning, and we were pressing the community that we had identified to leave,” Blinken said last week. “Despite 19 messages between March and late July, there was still at the time everything imploded about 6,000 people in Afghanistan who had a blue passport, who had American citizenship.”
That figure was dwarfed by the tens of thousands of Afghans at risk of retaliation from the Taliban by virtue of their past work on behalf of the U.S. military or other Western entities, leaving State Department officials “haunted by the choices” that they had to make in the scramble to assign the limited number of seats on airplanes fly…