During the hectic final days of the evacuation of Kabul, numerous planes that were packed to capacity with both foreign nationals and Afghani citizens took off from Kabul. We later learned that a number of those people probably didn’t have any sort of proper documentation and couldn’t be vetted properly. Some landed in third nations to await processing while others flew directly to destinations in the United States. Now, as part of the ongoing investigation into how everything went so wrong, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri has released some internal communications from the White House showing that identifying and vetting all of the Afghan passengers wasn’t a priority. It was simply a matter of packing as many people as possible onto the planes as rapidly as possible, with a preference for women and children when that could be managed. The ensuing issues we’ve encountered at some military bases where the arrivals were being housed might be traced back to this decision. (Free Beacon)
During America’s chaotic exit from Afghanistan earlier this year, the Biden administration issued a directive that evacuation flights be filled to “excess” with refugees who had not been properly vetted before arriving in America, according to an internal administration communication disclosed on Tuesday by Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.).
“Total inflow to the U.S. must exceed the number of seats available. Err on the side of excess,” reads an Aug. 16 email to U.S. officials involved in the exit from Afghanistan. “This guidance provides clear discretion and direction to fill seats and to provide special consideration for women and children when we have seats.”
Hawley, who says he obtained the email through a U.S. official who was outraged by the Biden administration’s failure to vet Afghan refugees flown into America, published the email Tuesday afternoon on Twitter. Hawley maintains that Afghan evacuees were not thoroughly screened with intensive interviews before they arrived in the United States.
As one of the people who was sitting there watching this debacle unfold on cable news day after day, I’m not sure how bothered I am by this revelation. Obviously, it would have been nice to ensure that everyone without a US ID, passport, green card, etc. was thoroughly vetted before being allowed to simply disappear into the interior of the United States. But the chaos outside the Kabul airport and the surging crowds clearly didn’t allow time for that sort of organized effort.
Also, if we are to default to the (probably dubious) assumption that everyone waiting at the gate was on the side of the Americans and just desperately wanted to find a way out of the country, packing as many people as possible into the planes probably made sense. And prioritizing women and children isn’t a call that I would criticize because it reduced the number of single males who would typically be most at risk of being ISIS-K moles.
With that in mind, this new information about the White House issuing urgent orders during the final hours isn’t the problem. At that point, it was far too late to do any sort of thorough vetting. If we want to find fault for how the packing of the planes unfolded in that fashion, it will be found in the weeks and months leading up to the evacuation. The lack of foresight on the part of the White House and Biden’s refusal to listen to his military experts when they warned him how quickly the Taliban would be able to overrun the country are the reasons we wound up in that mess.
The congressional hearings are still ongoing, but they all seem to be pointing in the same direction. This debacle will go down in history as one of the worst-executed military maneuvers in the modern era. Biden had months on end where our troops could have been identifying the locations of all American and allied citizens and quietly moving them into position. We could have similarly been listing all of the vetted helpers and getting them the correct documentation and transportation to places where they could be staged for departure. By the time the Taliban arrived at Kabul in force there should have been nobody left but our troops, frankly. But our Commander in Chief totally misread the Taliban every step of the way, and that’s why we wound up packing those planes in the fashion described above.