US diplomats in Kabul wrote a memo last month warning Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Afghanistan’s government could quickly collapse — appearing to contradict President Biden’s contention that the US government was surprised by the swift Taliban takeover.
Nearly two dozen diplomats signed the July 13 memo urging the State Department to start processing vulnerable Afghans for visas to the US and to begin evacuations by Aug. 1, well before they gained momentum.
The memo, signed by 23 embassy staffers, was submitted through the State Department’s Dissent Channel, a rarely utilized forum through which foreign service officers are able to raise internal concerns about US policy.
One day after the memo was submitted, the Biden administration launched Operation Allies Refuge to orchestrate the departure of Afghan citizens who assisted the US military. But evacuation flights didn’t accelerate until last week when the Taliban had already seized major Afghan cities and neared Kabul.
“Without going into detail, the dissent cable called for us to begin an airlift operation, which was announced the day after the cable was received,” a source familiar with the memo said.
An internal response was sent “within a few days of receiving the cable,” the person said.
The memo, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, predicted an Afghan government collapse shortly after Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline to remove most troops from the 20-year US intervention.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement that Blinken “reads every dissent and reviews and clears on every reply.”
Biden said in a Wednesday interview with ABC News that “there was no consensus” within the US government on whether Afghanistan would fall to the Taliban.
On Monday, Biden said in a speech at the White House, “The truth is: This did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.”
Previous reports said US spy agencies anticipated the collapse of the Kabul government within weeks or months of Aug. 31.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has backed Biden up, saying Wednesday, “There was nothing that I or anyone else saw that indicated a collapse of this army and this government in 11 days.”
Last month, Biden insisted, “The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”