The D Brief: Afghan withdrawal reexamined; Ukraine plans leaked; Chinese hospitality; and more…
Afghanistan Re-visited. The White House on Thursday released a twelve-page after-action review of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and reached the conclusion that any problems were the fault of the Trump Administration.
The argument: When President Trump took office, there were 10,000 troops in Afghanistan. Trump “emboldened” the Taliban by meeting with them at Camp David and entering into an agreement to pull troops out and free more than 5,000 Taliban fighters from prison, which put Biden in an impossible position. Biden’s choices were “severely constrained by conditions created by his predecessor,” it reads.
Expectations, meet reality. In a subsequent press gathering, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby acknowledged that the administration’s expectations for what would happen didn’t match up with reality. “We didn't get things right here,” he said. Those errors included the speed of the Taliban advance, the number of deals they were making with tribesmen outside of Kabul, and the total failure of the Afghan government security forces to fight, “Particularly after we…dedicated 20 years, trained and equipped them,” he said.
“I don't think we fully appreciated the degree of corruption that was in the officer ranks in the military,” he added.
Fun fact: The website of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction features 67 pages of reports on corruption issues going back to 2008. They get progressively worse.
“All the signs were there,” a former inspector general said in 2021.
Eventually, the Biden White House reached the conclusion that keeping 2,500 troops in country—as recommended by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley, who had served as deputy commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan—would be untenable, as their presence would violate the agreement with the Taliban, and they would need reinforcements, according to the Thursday summary.
Chaos is in the eye of the beholder? Finally, Kirby pushed back against the description of the withdrawal—marked by a lethal bomb attack, mobs of panicked Afghans, and people clinging to the outside of planes to get out—as chaotic. “For all this talk of chaos, I just didn't see it,” he said.
Republican reaction: House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, called Kirby’s comments “disgraceful and insulting,” The Hill reported. His committee is leading an investigation of the withdrawal. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., was similarly displeased: “Instead of addressing honestly and openly the substantial flaws in its decision-making process, the Biden administration has provided the public a full-throated and deeply partisan explanation of its indefensible Afghanistan policy.”
Still waiting: The veterans group the Association of Wartime Allies estimates that 78,000 Afghans who helped U.S. forces in their country and are eligible for special immigrant visas were left behind in Afghanistan.
But not everyone is trying to leave. The Taliban has reportedly detained 23-year-old British “influencer” Miles Routledge, who made his clout traveling to “dark” places, Business Insider reports.
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Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Patrick Tucker with Jennifer Hlad. On this day in 2003, U.S. troops, aided by 70 tanks, 60 Bradley fighting vehicles, A-10 Warthogs, and drones entered Baghdad and seized the Presidential Palace. Army Col. David Perkins, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, declared to the Los Angeles Times, “We own Baghdad!” But sadly, the pool was empty. "This used to be a nice place, they should make it like a Six Flags, or something," Spc. Robert Blake, 20, of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry, told CBS.
U.S. plans for Ukraine support this spring leaked online, prompting a Pentagon investigation, according to the New York Times.
The plans, which are five weeks old, don’t give away Ukraine’s plans for its spring offensive. They do, however, contain severe under-estimates of Russian casualties, putting the number at 17,000 when analysts have said it’s likely closer to 200,000. The documents were posted on Twitter and Telegram.
Ukraine’s top military leaders are now also discussing ways to tamp down on leaks, according to Reuters.
U.S. opposing NATO bid for Ukraine? The United States is siding with Germany and Hungary against some Eastern European allies who advocate offering Ukraine a “road map” to join the alliance, according to a report from the Financial Times. The alliance meets in July to discuss these and other matters. “We’ve got several weeks of hard negotiations ahead,” said one U.S. official.
Growing risks to and from veterans: U.S. service members are increasingly vulnerable to appeals from the growing number of extremist groups that populate the American landscape, according to a new report from Military.com.
“But the Pentagon and Congress remain divided over how seriously to take the threat, even as violent plots are foiled and agencies, watchdog organizations, and advocates issue increasingly urgent warnings,” write Travis Tritten, Drew Lawrence, Konstantin Toropin and Steve Beynon.
At the same time, Rand points out that people living longer means higher rates of age-related conditions like dementia and that is about to hit the clearance community, hard. “National security and intelligence communities are especially at risk because they employ large numbers of military veterans, who, as a population, may have a higher risk of developing dementia because of high rates of traumatic brain injury,” according to the researchers.
Lastly: Chinese President Xi Jinping afforded French President Emmanuel Macron a “lavish” welcome during the French President’s recent state visit. according to Reuters. What Xi did not offer was what Macron came seeking, a public shift away from supporting Russia in the conflict.
Meanwhile, China sanctioned the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and the Hudson Institute for hosting Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., during a recent visit to the United States, according to CNN.
That’s all for today. Have a great weekend, and we’ll see you on Monday!