An internal State Department memo last month warned top agency officials of the potential collapse of Kabul soon after the US’s August 31 troop withdrawal deadline in Afghanistan, a US official and a person familiar with the document told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
The classified cable represents the clearest evidence yet that the administration had been warned by its own officials on the ground that the Taliban’s advance was imminent and Afghanistan’s military may be unable to stop it.
The cable, sent via the State Department’s confidential dissent channel, warned of rapid territorial gains by the Taliban and the subsequent collapse of Afghan security forces, and offered recommendations on ways to mitigate the crisis and speed up an evacuation, the two people said.
The cable, dated July 13, also called for the State Department to use tougher language in describing the atrocities being committed by the Taliban, said one of the sources.
In all, 23 US Embassy staffers, all Americans, signed the July 13 cable, the two people said. The US official said there was a rush to deliver it, given circumstances on the ground in Kabul.
The cable was sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Director of Policy Planning Salman Ahmed, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Blinken received the cable and reviewed it shortly after receipt, according to the person familiar with the exchange, who added that contingency planning was already under way when it was received, and that Blinken welcomed their feedback.
State Department spokesman Ned Price declined to address the cable, but told The Wall Street Journal that Blinken reads every dissent and reviews every reply.
“He’s made clear that he welcomes and encourages use of the dissent channel, and is committed to its revitalization. We value constructive internal dissent,” said Price.
The Biden administration has come under fire for his handling of the crisis in Afghanistan, where the Taliban overtook the capital Kabul this week, forcing the Afghani president to flee to the United Arab Emirates.
On Monday, Biden gave a speech in which he justified the decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and said he “stands squarely behind” that decision.
On Wednesday, in an interview with ABC, the President insisted he doesn’t know how the US could have withdrawn from Afghanistan without “chaos ensuing.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said this week that the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan was “an unmitigated disaster.”
“Every terrorist around the world, in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen, in Africa, are cheering the defeat of the United States military by a terrorist organization in Afghanistan,” he added.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Biden “chose a dangerous and dishonorable path in Afghanistan, and he has no one to blame for this debacle but himself.”
Former US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said that the US withdrawal – which allowed the Taliban to take control of Afghanistan – “gave the terrorists a win.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence penned an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in which he accused Biden of showing “weakness” toward the Taliban.
Former President Donald Trump blasted Biden in an interview with Newsmax, saying, “It’s inconceivable that anybody could be so incompetent, stupid.”
“Use any word you want to use,” Trump added. “To imagine that you take out your military before you take out your US citizens, and the civilians and others that may be helped us to even think of that, it’s not something that can be believed.”
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