- US officials were making decisions on Afghanistan evacuations hours before the Taliban takeover.
- Axios reported that leaked documents showed basic decisions hadn’t been made as of August 14.
- The Taliban took over Afghanistan on August 15, and US troops withdrew by the end of that month.
President Joe Biden’s administration reacted slowly and was unprepared to evacuate Afghans who helped the US after the Taliban took Kabul in August, according to notes from a White House Situation Room meeting obtained by Axios.
The outlet said a National Security Council “summary of conclusions” document from an August 14 meeting held between 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. ET, when Taliban fighters were closing in on Kabul, showed the Biden administration made several crucial decisions just hours before the Taliban took over on August 15.
Senior officials were still talking over basic mass-civilian-evacuation actions. Axios reported that though the document it obtained featured the word “immediately” several times, officials on August 14 were still determining which countries would be transit stops for evacuees.
The document also said officials in that meeting decided the embassy in Kabul should “immediately” inform locally employed workers “to register their interest in relocation to the United States and begin to prepare immediately for departure.”
Gen. John Hyten, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was among senior officials said to have attended the meeting.
Axios added that earlier in 2021, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who ended up fleeing the country, had asked Biden not to start a mass evacuation because he was worried it would show a lack of faith in his government; at the same time, Biden officials overestimated the Afghan military ability to withstand the Taliban.
More than 120,000 people were ultimately evacuated from Afghanistan by the August 31 deadline to withdraw troops.
The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment from Insider. In a statement to Axios, a National Security Council representative, Emily Horne, said: “While we’re not going to comment on leaked internal documents, cherry-picked notes from one meeting do not reflect the months of work that were already underway.”