News & Politics

State Department's 'Turf Wars' Over Trump Program 'Mucked Up' Evacuation of Americans From Afghanistan

"Left behind in Afghanistan? Sorry, my bad." (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool.)

Hundreds left behind in Afghanistan by Presidentish Joe Biden’s hasty and ill-planned bugout could have been gotten out, if not for State Department turf wars over the Trump-era Contingency and Crisis Response bureau.

The story you first read about here two weeks ago got an added boost from Adam Ciralsky’s latest for Vanity Fair.

Planned as a major upgrade to the Obama-era Operational Medicine (OpMed), the CCR was quashed so badly by infighting inside Anthony Blinken’s State Department that “OpMed was in limbo” just as the situation in Kabul went Tango Uniform.

Ciralsky described OpMed as “a turnkey solution for overseas operations.” Even as a mere office, William “Doc” Walters’ in-house organization has carried out “daring rescues of U.S. officials, American citizens, and foreign nationals imperiled overseas.”

In his last year as President Donald Trump’s SecState, Mike Pompeo had planned to elevate OpMed to bureau status at the Bureau of Contingency and Crisis Response (CCR).

But then Blinken blinked:

Blinken approved a recommendation against upgrading OpMed into a bureau. A unit distinguished by its ability to blow through bureaucratic wickets would instead be forced to play “Mother May I,” answering to a series of administrators: a director, an acting undersecretary, and on up to the deputy secretary for management and resources (DMR). To outsiders, this might seem like a low-stakes game of Jenga in reverse. But the move, which blindsided many, appeared to have profound consequences.

Walters resigned in protest, telling Blinken, “Sir, you deserve to have leaders who can get behind the decisions you make. I can’t do that. So I’m leaving,” according to Vanity Fair.

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As I wrote when the less-detailed version of this story broke on August 19, “Biden didn’t plan for every contingency. He killed our ability to respond to the most likely contingency.”

There is so much blame to go around that I hardly know where to begin.

But the rot does seem deepest at Blinken’s State Department if Ciralsky’s report is anything to go by:

This individual described the decision-making process at Foggy Bottom as being plagued by “pathologic optimism.” But as the days and weeks wore on, several other State Department sources would explain that the problem came down to hubris. Eliminating CCR and degrading OpMed, without clearly defined alternatives, was evidence, they said, of meta-ignorance (known in psychology circles as the Dunning-Kruger effect); America’s diplomats, in the view of these insiders, were ignorant of their own ignorance.

Two very bad things were apparently going on at the very same time earlier this summer.

Our top military brass was going forward with closing Bagram Air Base first, thus eliminating the Pentagon’s ability to deal with the crisis created by Biden’s childish determination to exit Afghanistan completely by an arbitrary deadline.

While the White House and Pentagon were busy creating a military and humanitarian crisis, Blinken’s State Department was busy sidelining the one organization they had on hand to respond to Biden’s bungled bugout.

The cascading symmetrical failures would be something you could laugh at in a Franz Kafka story, except these are the deadly and real-world failures of an administration that was supposed to put the grown-ups back in charge.