Victory has a thousand fathers but defeat is an orphan.
Since the disastrous retreat from Afghanistan, everyone has been pointing fingers. The Biden administration blamed Trump. The military, somewhat rightly, blamed the State Department for having no evac plan while insisting on maintaining a massive diplomatic facility in what would soon be enemy territory. (Although the military had its own role in this disaster.)
The State Department has refused to cooperate with the Afghanistan watchdog, but has issued its own report blaming, among other things, the pandemic.
Among contributing factors to the chaotic and violent withdrawal, the report found, were that the State Department wasn’t best prepared for the collapse of the Afghan government, “prolonged gaps in filling” senior positions overseas and difficulties staffing and running the department’s in-person crisis response due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The State Department wasn’t prepared because it chose not to be. It failed to address the reality of the situation because it was politically inconvenient.
Its failure to properly staff positions is also a disaster of its own making, including the absurdity of letting key personnel meant to deal with a crisis work remotely, but it’s already been documented that State Dept personnel refused to consider an evacuation during in-person meetings including with military brass.
Overall, the department found that the U.S. needs to better plan for “worst-case scenarios,” rebuild the department’s crisis management capabilities and “ensure that senior officials hear the broadest possible range of views including those that challenge operating assumptions or question the wisdom of key policy decisions.”
The latter is the only relevant part of this, but the problem is that Biden wanted a withdrawal at any cost. And he got it. The State Department gave him what he wanted by ignoring any contrary views and tripled down on a fantasy of a negotiated solution with the Taliban. There was never going to be a negotiated solution with the Taliban. It was an idiotic fantasy all along that could only end in one way. But politicians didn’t want to hear that.
That was the problem here, not COVID.