Did Joe Biden admin fail to prepare for Kabul fall? State dept shut evacuation team months ago
As the Taliban took control over Afghanistan, the US and allied nations began one of the largest evacuations in modern history. Thousands of stranded diplomats, citizens, and Afghanistani allies are all being moved to the west, one plane at a time. As scenes from Kabul airport show, it's nothing short of chaos. However, a new report indicates that it could have been entirely avoided if the State Department hadn't closed a Trump-era program.
Evacuations from Afghanistan are proving to be a major challenge. Despite promises to ferry out at least 9,000 people per day, reports indicate most flights are returning empty, with rumors the Taliban are holding people hostage. The evacuation has also brought to light several haunting, but iconic images. The latest being the footage of a body stuck in the landing gear of a C-17 Globemaster. On the first day of Taliban rule, scenes at Kabul airport were compared to the film 'World War Z'.
Since the swift and sudden capture of Afghanistan, the US and all its allies have been struggling to evacuate from the nation, but it didn't have to be this way. The Trump State Department reportedly had a program, specifically born from the ashes of the Benghazi fiasco, designed to help with evacuations called the 'Contingency and Crisis Response Bureau' (CCRB). However, the Biden administration reportedly shut the program down, paving the way for a chaotic evacuation.
What is the Contingency and Crisis Response Bureau?
The CCRB was created under the Trump presidency with the sole purpose of avoiding another Bengahzi. The program would have helped plan evacuations of Americans overseas, quickly and efficiently should things go south. Reportedly, Mike Pompeo signed off of the CCRB in October 2020, approving $26m in funding. The CCRB would have been the successor of an existing program called Operation Medicine, or OpMed.
Vanity Fair managed to get an exclusive from OpMed and reported that "Even before COVID reared its head, OpMed was finding ways to do all sorts of things, serving as the hidden hand behind daring and often dangerous operations to rescue Americans from peril abroad." OpMed was created shortly after the Benghazi fiasco, as the State Department learned the hard way it needed a crisis team to help with sudden evacuations. That's when OpMed was created by the Obama administration.
In recent days, OpMed has almost exclusively worked to help with Covid-19. The program helped medivac Bert Hewitt, who was Bhutan's first Covid-19 case in March 2020. They also helped 328 Americans home from the stranded Diamond Princess in Japan. The Trump State Department would have expanded the scope of the OpMed with the CCRB, but alas that was never meant to be.
CCRB scrapped as early as February
A new report from The National Pulse shows that the Biden administration scrapped the CCRB and withheld funding in June 2021. The report comes from a State Department document that was leaked to The Pulse. Reportedly, it is from the desk of Deputy Secretary of State Brian P McKeon to the Secretary. While it is dated June 11, The Pulse reported that the decision to close the program may have come as early as February 2021, shortly after Biden took over as President.
The memo reads "That you direct the discontinuation of the establishment, and termination of, the Contingency and Crisis Response Bureau (CCR), and direct a further review of certain associated Department requirements and capabilities." It goes on to read, "That you direct the discontinuation of the establishment, and termination of, CCR, consistent with the applicable legal requirements, necessary stakeholder engagement, and any applicable changes to the Foreign Affairs Manual and other requirements."
It is believed Blinken approved the termination of the program after several career diplomats objected to the specific aim set out by the Trump administration. In its 2022 Congressional budget justification, the State Department confirmed the closure by saying "The Department has paused implementation of Op Med (CCR) pending a policy review." The closure was blasted by Trump, who told The Pulse, "Canceling this successful Trump Administration program before the withdrawal that would have helped tens of thousands of Americans reach home is beyond disgraceful." He added, "Our withdrawal was conditions-based and perfect, it would have been flawlessly executed and nobody would have even known we left."
By scrapping the CCRB, the Biden administration left the American diplomats in harm's way, even though it was working to end the military occupation of Afghanistan. Even with the Taliban closing in on Kabul, the state department didn't take any precautions to evacuate its employees, setting the stage for the fiasco playing out right now. Perhaps some of it could've been avoided if the CCRB was still in place.