Excellent reporting and necessary in order to paint a more accurate picture. I am grateful that it was MG Donahue as the on scene Commander. An extraordinary leader, accustomed to making hard calls and managing a mission in the middle of chaos. There were few bright spots in this effort, but the blame must be widely distributed in order to do justice to this historic event.

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Democrats could have opened an investigation into this disaster themselves, but opted not to in order to protect their President, thus intentionally ignoring a key mandate of Congress, which is oversight. I do hope Republicans are going to investigate this, though I fear they will go too far with politicizing it. We know that Biden overrode and ignored the advise of his generals and other experts. Lets get them under oath and hear their side. 13 Americans died, along with countless Afghan civilians and we cannot allow their memory to be swept under the rug so Biden can save face, but we also don't want them to become politicized. It's a fine line the Republicans will have navigate, and all signs suggest they'll fail. But since Dems refused to do their job, we'll have to hope that Reps can surprise us. The truth MUST be brought to light

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“Tatum’s” article is a mashup of fascinating factual tidbits and mystic speculation by an unidentified author who purports to have inside/eyewitness knowledge of the Afghan end game.

But his/her use of the term “Biden’s botched evacuation” reflects more emotion than reason and perhaps pure partisan malice.

The evacuation of Saigon was a demonstrably “botched” operation because the CIA’s two best intelligence sources, both of whom I dealt with directly during the period in question, provided dead-accurate warnings of what exactly Hanoi’s forces intended to do, how they meant to do it, and precisely when.

The first warning was delivered to me personally a month before the end. The second was forwarded by a deep penetration source via paper channels three weeks before the end. The same source handed me an updated projection two weeks before the end.

This isn’t post-facto BS. Most of this reporting has been declassified. Ambassador Graham Martin in postwar Congressional testimony conceded that the final warning had been delivered (just as I describe above) -- and largely ignored.

Indeed, Martin, Kissinger, the CIA Station chief and the Defense Attaché in Saigon all succumbed to varieties of wishful thinking and failed to prepare adequately to save Vietnamese and Americans in mortal danger.

Just after the third intelligence warning, the Defense Attaché’s people reinforced Martin’s impulse to stall off an emergency evacuation by assuring him Hanoi was willing to accept a ceasefire and allow the embassy to remain in operation afterwards. Kissinger fell for vague assurances from the Soviets that Hanoi had no intention of humiliating the United States. My boss, CIA station chief Tom Polgar remained in thrall of diplomatic contacts who assured him the recent departure of the South Vietnamese president would bring about peace talks between the two sides.

Our very best source had twice warned that all such talk of a negotiated settlement was part of a “stratagem” ginned up by Hanoi to mind-fake us.

In the end the emergency helicopter lift devolved into a catch-as-catch-can case of every man, woman and child for themselves -- despite heroic last minute improvisation by young embassy officers and because of inadequate coordination from the top.

Result: many of he most imperiled Vietnamese were abandoned to the enemy.

That is what a “botched” evacuation looks like.

By contrast, based on all available public sources, including two of the US generals responsible for Afghanistan, there were no indications that Kabul’s collapse would come so rapidly as it did.

Public sources indicate that up until late July 2021 the accepted wisdom of the US intelligence community was that Afghan security forces could hold out for a year or more after the US troop shutdown slated for a month away. It wasn’t until August 12 – three days before the collapse -- that DNI Avril Haines conceded to President Biden that nothing was predictable.

At that point Biden moved quickly and decisively to manage the crisis and ensure the rescue of as many people as humanly possible. The numbers evacuated in the extraordinary ensuing two-week airlift were twice the number of souls who escaped Vietnam with some sort of US help during entire final month of that war.

It can also be established through public sources that Biden’s measured approach to a mid-summer (2021) drawdown of Afghan visa holders reflected a concern, reinforced by President Ghani, that any rush to the exits would compromise the Kabul regime’s ability to work out a political accommodation with the Taliban, which US intelligence agencies still assessed as possible and worth striving for.

If anything was "botched" during the final chapter of the Afghan conflict it was the gathering and assessment of intelligence by US agencies. Any honest reckoning by Congress would focus on the problematic intelligence apparatus Biden inherited from Trump, along with the political atrocity known as the Doha agreement. I do not, however, hold out much hope for an honest reckoning given the pending GOP takeover of the House and the kind of emotional (if understandable) handwringing Tatum epitomizes. – Frank Snepp

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Mr. Snepp, Thank you for your thoughtful and lengthy reply, and also for your service and for being a powerful whistleblower about the end of our other longest war.

I’ve given a lot of thought to your concerns and criticism. First, I understand your skepticism of anybody who writes under a pen name. That’s the way it has to be for me, for now. But, I was an observer of events as they happened in Afghanistan, not someone who merely looked back at what happened in the past. It was personal for me because of the many I knew in harm’s way.

Yes, I consider what happened in August 2021 as “Biden’s botched evacuation.“ But the groundwork for it, as I wrote in the story, was laid by Trump. I don’t think he had much concern for the sacrifices of so many Americans and Afghans and our NATO allies when he directed peace talks that excluded the Afghan government, resulting in the disgrace of the Doha agreement. The Afghan government and military at the time was rightly troubled that they were not at the table.

I don’t know how much “wishful thinking“ there was within the Biden Administration or the senior ranks of the military, which you recount besetting our leaders in 1975. Public statements by Secretary Blinken, Special Envoy Khalilzad, General Milley and President Biden himself all seemed to amount to wishful thinking, as each denied that a repeat of the fall of Saigon was going to happen in Kabul. But, multiple intelligence assessments predicted otherwise. Those assessments did not come out on the same day, but throughout 2021, and all apparently reached the same conclusion: the Afghan government would not survive the withdrawal of the United States military, and in particular its contractors. (For example, it was very hard to maintain a fleet of Black Hawk helicopters when the contractors who kept them airworthy were re-located to Connecticut and elsewhere.)

I am unaware of any assessment that gave the Afghan government a whole year after the U.S. withdrawal, but it is a fact that there were US Embassy diplomats holding meetings in July 2021 to plan things in Afghanistan a year out even as districts were falling right and left. One senior U.S. Embassy officer told me with regret that they had been fully in denial until August.

Just as you note in your fascinating comments the abandonment of Vietnamese forces in 1975, the Afghan partner forces were also abandoned en masse. Taliban hunted down special operators and Commandos over the past 15 months and wounded or killed many. Again, that’s very personal for me.

Despite learning from spring to summer 2021 of intelligence assessments that the country would collapse very soon after the U.S. withdrawal — and by soon I mean in 2021 not 2022 — it was apparent to me at the time that Washington was not listening. Some Americans moved with great haste in their private efforts to help Afghan friends get out as soon as possible, many months before the Taliban’s final victory.

In May and June 2021, congressional hearings focused on pressing top officials of the administration on what they were going to do to help those with applications for special immigrant visas. The answers were vague. Team Trump stripped those operations at State of personnel and added layers of red tape. The new Biden team was unable to untangle it or improve the system and seemed in no hurry to fix it that summer. (See House Foreign Affairs Committee hearings in May and June 2021.) They did not call for volunteers within State and DHS to staff up processing SIVs *until after Kabul collapsed*, according to news reports and all hands emails I’ve read.

You are very right that President Ghani did not want those SIV applicants to cause a panic. In fact, when he came to Washington at the end of June 2021, he publicly pleaded with those Afghans to stop applying for SIVs and not leave the country when it needed them

most. But, in fairness, Ghani also asked Biden directly in the oval office for weapons systems, replenished ordnance and help in increasing numbers of Afghan special operations forces — and he was denied those requests. That was June 25. The writing was on the wall.

I also absolutely agree with you that Congress should examine the intelligence apparatus Biden inherited from Trump. Trump should absolutely not be let off the hook for anything.

Finally, I will confirm to you that, indeed, I have been doing a lot of handwringing. I still have friends who are in hiding in Afghanistan, waiting for that knock at the their door preceding their murder by the Taliban for their years supporting America’s foreign policy. This Thanksgiving, I hope all who read this will join me in giving thanks for such brave men and women left behind, and for those lucky few who made it here to safety and liberty. Again, thank you for your thoughtful comments and the questions you raised, Mr. Snepp.

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving, Tatum

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