The Biden administration released a report on the Afghanistan withdrawal Thursday that largely pointed the finger at former president Donald Trump for the botched exit that resulted in the country’s rapid fall to the Taliban.
“Decisions made and the lack of planning done by the previous administration significantly limited the options available” for withdrawal, White House spokesman John Kirby said in a briefing on the report, pointing to Trump’s reducing troop numbers and a “starved” visa program.
Kirby said that during the transition, the Biden administration asked to see plans for withdrawal but “none were forthcoming” from the Trump administration.
“Transitions matter and the incoming administration wasn’t afforded much of one,” Kirby said.
The White House does acknowledge in the report that it should have begun evacuations earlier. Kirby said “not everything” was “perfect” but that there is a lot to be “proud of.”
The evacuation ended in August 2021, with the Biden administration leaving nearly $7.2 billion worth of military equipment in the hands of the Taliban, according to oversight reports. Thirteen U.S. servicemembers died in a suicide attack at the evacuation airport. House Republicans have begun investigating the withdrawal and subsequent fall of Afghanistan, issuing Secretary of State Antony Blinken a subpoena in late March.
Kirby was repeatedly asked by the press on Thursday about whether anyone in the administration would face consequences for the failed exit, a question he refused to answer. Kirby said the report was not about “accountability” but to share information on the exit.
“Intelligence is hard business, they get it right a lot too,” Kirby said.
The administration said it learned from the Kabul fall and used these lessons in Ethiopia and Ukraine.
“We now prioritize earlier evacuations when faced with a degrading security situation,” the White House said in the report.
A reporter criticized Kirby for the White House’s releasing of the report right before a holiday.
“This was sent to us about 10 minutes before the briefing, with little notice,” the reporter said. “Releasing this at the beginning of a high holiday, after months of requests … is this all we get?”
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