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A Biden administration review of the Afghanistan withdrawal blames Trump

Afghan people climb atop a plane as they wait at the Kabul airport in Kabul on Aug. 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan's 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city's airport trying to flee the group's feared hardline brand of Islamist rule.
Wakil Kohsar
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AFP via Getty Images
Afghan people climb atop a plane as they wait at the Kabul airport in Kabul on Aug. 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan's 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city's airport trying to flee the group's feared hardline brand of Islamist rule.

Updated April 6, 2023 at 2:14 PM ET

President Biden's White House is blaming the "conditions created by his predecessor" for the way the U.S. ended its more-than-two-decade-long military presence in Afghanistan in 2021.

The State and Defense departments are sending a classified review of the withdrawal to Congress on Thursday.

The assessment is part of a National Security Council document that provides the Biden administration's views on the controversial withdrawal that ultimately resulted in the deaths of American service members.

The assessment notes that in his last 11 months in office, former President Donald Trump ordered a series of drawdowns of U.S. troops. He lowered the number from 8,600 in June 2020 to 4,500 in September 2020.

Read a White House summary of classified after-action reports sent to Congress here:

"A month later, President Trump tweeted, to the surprise of military advisors, that the remaining U.S. troops in Afghanistan should be 'home by Christmas!,'" the assessment notes, but Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, testified in September 2021 that "on November 11, he had received an unclassified signed order directing the U.S. military to withdraw all forces from Afghanistan no later than January 15, 2021. One week later, that order was rescinded and replaced with one to draw down to 2,500 troops by the same date."

"During the transition from the Trump Administration to the Biden Administration, the outgoing Administration provided no plans for how to conduct the final withdrawal or to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies," the assessment said. "Indeed, there were no such plans in place when President Biden came into office, even with the agreed upon full withdrawal just over three months away."

National Security Council Spokesman John F. Kirby responds to questions Thursday afternoon. The White House released findings of an investigation into the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan shortly before the press briefing.
Devin Speak / NPR
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NPR
National Security Council Spokesman John F. Kirby responds to questions Thursday afternoon. The White House released findings of an investigation into the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan shortly before the press briefing.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters at the White House Thursday that the decision to withdrawal from Afghanistan was the right one but that the previous administration had not done sufficient planning for the withdrawal and put Biden in a difficult position.

"Transitions matter. That's the first lesson learned here," he said.

He would not answer directly about whether Biden would have done things differently and pointed to the document to speak to lessons.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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