Monday marked one year since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan amid withdrawal of American troops from the government. A chaotic scene followed until the last U.S. troops came home 15 days later.
Hundreds of Americans were initially left behind. The Taliban brutally beat and murdered innocent Afghans. People clung to departing planes in an act of desperation. Billions of dollars worth of military equipment was abandoned. Days before the withdrawal was complete, 13 U.S. service members were killed in an attack on the capital city of Kabul.
“13 heroes gave their lives,” President Biden said in an address to the nation after the withdrawal last year. “We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude we can never repay, but we should never, ever, ever forget.”
President Biden said boots on the ground were no longer needed, touting the capability of taking out any threats through advanced airstrikes, as the U.S. did in killing al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri. However, al-Zawahri’s killing also means al-Qaida’s presence has grown in the region since U.S. troops left. al-Zawahri was found and killed in Kabul. The Taliban government has denied knowledge of al-Zawahri residing in Afghanistan.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee has been working on a report since the withdrawal and subsequent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. It is investigating the Biden Administration’s actions leading up to the decision to pull U.S. forces from the region. The committee is supposed to release the report this month, but CNN has obtained a final draft of its findings.
In CNN’s copy of the report, the committee reportedly found only 36 State Department officials on the ground at the Kabul airport to process Afghans trying to evacuate. The State Department claimed they had surged resources to handle the crowds desperately trying to flee. But the figure in the report means there was “roughly one consular officer for every 3,444 evacuees.”
Both the State Department and the Pentagon have conducted their own reviews of the withdrawal, but neither of the departments have released any findings. The Pentagon’s review is ongoing while the State Department concluded its review in March.