Secrets of the Afghan evacuation to get harsh GOP review in new congress
“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
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
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.