US diplomats warned Blinken in July country could fall to Taliban: report
About two dozen diplomats working at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan warned Secretary of State Antony Blinken in July that Kabul risked falling to the Taliban shortly after the military’s withdrawal, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.
The classified cable, sent through the State Department’s confidential dissent channel, detailed swift gains by the Taliban throughout the country, the collapse of Afghan forces and offered recommendations for speeding up evacuation efforts.
The July 13 cable also used tougher language to describe actions being taken by the Taliban, a source told the Journal, highlighting that the administration’s officials on the ground gave leaders clear warnings about the group’s advancement.
News of the cable comes as the U.S. is struggling to evacuate between 10,000 and 15,000 Americans believed to be in Afghanistan, along with more than 80,000 Afghans who likely qualify for evacuation based on their work with the U.S. military and government.
The cable urged the State Department to begin registering and collecting personal data of Afghan interpreters and other allies who qualify for special immigrant visas to leave the country and said the U.S. should begin evacuation flights no later than Aug. 1.
It also comes as administration officials have sought to blame the intelligence community for not anticipating the insurgent group’s rapid takeover of the country.
“There was nothing that I or anyone else saw that indicated a collapse of this army and this government in 11 days,” Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday.
The collapse has been embarrassing to the White House, particularly since President Biden on July 8 told the country that it would not see scenes echoing the U.S. retreat from Saigon in 1975 and that a Taliban takeover was “highly unlikely.”
“We value constructive internal dissent. It’s patriotic. It’s protected. And it makes us more effective,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement to The Hill. “The Secretary reads every dissent and reviews and clears on every reply. He’s made clear that he welcomes and encourages use of the Dissent Channel, and is committed to its revitalization.”
The dissent channel, which allows State Department officials to voice concern with administration decisions, tends to be used just a few times each year.
A total of 23 staffers signed the cable, which went to Blinken and Director of Policy Planning Salman Ahmad, according to the Journal.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee has already asked Blinken to appear before lawmakers to discuss the administration’s planning for the withdrawal, but ranking member Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said he wants a full readout on this cable and any other warnings given to the administration.
“For months, my colleagues on both sides of the aisle have been pleading with the Biden Administration to evacuate as many of our Afghan partners as possible before the Taliban found them and killed them. They ignored our calls. If these reports are true, it means this Administration also willfully ignored the pleas of their own people on the ground in Kabul and their warnings of how dire the situation truly was,” McCaul said in a statement.
“Members of the Foreign Affairs Committee need a full briefing on these cables and any other warnings President Biden and Secretary Blinken may have received prior to this heartbreaking crisis they created,” he added. “And we need it immediately.”