Blinken Orders State Department Reviews of Afghanistan Evacuation, Relocation Efforts

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Reporter
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
October 28, 2021 Updated: October 28, 2021

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Wednesday that he has ordered internal reviews of the U.S. evacuation and relocation efforts from Afghanistan.

The United States withdrew from Afghanistan on Aug. 30, ending a two decade war that began in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. President Joe Biden refused to extend the withdrawal deadline, even though over 100 Americans and thousands of Afghans who wanted to leave the country were left behind.

The Biden administration’s handling of the withdrawal, and evacuation efforts, drew bipartisan condemnation, though it has been largely defended by top officials in the administration, including Blinken, although he has acknowledged that there were mistakes made.

“We will not let this opportunity to learn and do better pass us by,” Blinken said in a speech on Wednesday focused on modernizing the State Department.

Speaking at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Virginia, before lawmakers, diplomats and others, Blinken praised the evacuation operation but also said the agency needs to learn from this experience and do better if a similar scenario presents itself in the future.

“Now we owe it to ourselves, to our Afghan friends and partners and to future State Department employees who might find themselves facing a similar challenge one day to capture all that we learned, study it, apply it and preserve it,” he added, without elaborating on what steps would be reviewed specifically.

The Epoch Times has contacted the State Department for comment.

The announcement comes after the State Department’s inspector general, or the State OIG, earlier this month told members of Congress that it notified the department of several “oversight projects” related to the ending of operations at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, according to a letter obtained and published by Politico.

The OIG is reviewing the Special Immigrant Visa program, which gives visas to Afghans who fit certain criteria; the Afghans admitted as refugees into the United States; the resettlement of both Afghan refugees and visa recipients; and the emergency planning and execution by the Kabul embassy, including how it evacuated U.S. citizens and Afghans.

Blinken in his speech on Wednesday acknowledged that the evacuation operation was “incredibly difficult.”

“And there are so many things that now—looking back—we can ask: ‘Could we have done that step differently? Should we have tried that idea first?’ ‘Could we have gotten to that decision more quickly?”’ he said. “We learned a lot in a short period of time—and we learned it the hard way. We learned by doing.”

Zachary Stieber and Reuters contributed to this report.

Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.