As the Biden administration approaches the one-year anniversary of its chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in August of 2021, it is struggling with how to mark the milestone and try to make progress in understanding America’s longest war through several study efforts.
Because of the nature of the withdrawal from Kabul International Airport, where more than 100,000 people were frantically evacuated and 13 American service members were killed in a bombing attack, the commemorations will be careful not to be unduly celebratory, several officials told CNN. Instead, the expectation is that a range of administration officials and military personnel will talk about the service and sacrifice that was carried out.
The end of August will also mark one year since a bungled US drone strike killed 10 civilians, including seven children on August 29, 2021, in Kabul.
A Pentagon “after action review” of all military efforts in Afghanistan from February 2020 to the end of August 2021 appears to have run into trouble after an initial draft prepared by outside independent experts was rejected, according to a defense official.
The draft apparently did not have the level of detail the Defense Department was seeking. “It did not touch on specific matters we wanted,” the official said, declining to offer specifics. It’s not clear if portions of the classified work will ever be made public and how soon a new version will even be ready for internal review.
In February 2020, the Trump administration signed an agreement between the US and the Taliban on drawing down US involvement based on conditions on the ground.
President Joe Biden ordered all troops to withdraw from the country by an end of August 2021 deadline, triggering a chaotic withdrawal just as the Taliban rapidly seized control of the country.
The after action review is expected to look at all of the elements of what happened during the total time frame – what worked well and what did not, the official said. It is not clear how much the report will rely on previous work such as the extensive review of the bomb attack at the airport.
The Pentagon is updating its procedures on conducting non-combatant evacuations, although it’s not clear how much of the work is due to what happened in Kabul.
Also unclear is when a congressionally ordered bipartisan 16-member commission on the 20 years of the war will begin any substantive work. So far, Republicans have not selected a co-commissioner.