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Escape from Kabul: The Inside Story

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Was there an attempt by you at the start to go any—to senior ranking people in the Department of Defense or in the Marine Corps even of itself? Or is that something that just happened or did you say, no, we’re going to cut it off at this level? AMOS: And do you think there’s long-term effect on those people? Do they feel like they were thrown to the wolves out there? I mean, any kind of help that the United States provides to support the Afghan people and to restore, you know, even a minimum level of economic activity is going to have some indirect propping up effect for the Taliban regime and there’s just no way around that.

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Escape From Kabul Airport also hears from the specialist unit of U.S. Marines tasked with managing the evacuation and whose plans are shattered when Taliban forces take the city at lightning speed. They speak openly for the first time of their hand-to-hand battle to reclaim the overwhelmed airfield whilst a humanitarian catastrophe unspooled around them. Taliban commanders and fighters who had recently taken the city describe how they encircled the airport perimeter and faced U.S. forces. That’s not to say that there shouldn’t have been better, different planning than there was. But I do think you have to distinguish between what might have been a better plan on paper and what you would have actually still seen on the ground once you start that process and you precipitate the crisis of confidence that there was.

In terms of the State Department, we spoke with the acting ambassador at the time and we looked at the State Department’s story. But, again, I think we were drawn, really, to the three factors of the U.S. Marines, who were right there in the gates, the Taliban, and then the evacuees who got out and the evacuees who tried to get out. What you can’t do is provide support for the Afghan people with any expectation that you’re going to get something from the Taliban in a political sense in return. They are not engaging in a transaction with the United States or the international community whereby if you provide certain number of dollars of support they’re going to change their views about girls’ education or about having a more inclusive, much less a more democratic form of governance, in the country. My own view—and I don’t think I was alone in this—but my own view at—in the months and, really, in the few years leading up to the final collapse was that there were really only two possible scenarios once the U.S. decided finally to pull out and began to pull out.

Escape From Kabul’ Review: Evacuation in Recap - The New ‘Escape From Kabul’ Review: Evacuation in Recap - The New

And, you know, those warnings were left unheeded and I think the greatest example of the fact that the administration was completely caught flat footed is that half the administration was on vacation when this happened. They weren’t even in Washington, D.C. There is, I think, a need on the part of Afghans, certainly, for support and help from the international community. The country is in very dire humanitarian and economic straits, and humanitarian aid alone is not going to solve that problem and it’s not really sustainable. So I think that—you know, that’s an indictment that the mentality just wasn’t even there for the types of contingencies that could have changed the reality on the ground, and I would just encourage people to watch Jamie’s film because it shows in really visceral terms what happens when those types of worst case scenarios are not planned for. So I’m just wondering organizationally—putting aside the strategic questions—what could have been done differently?The original departure date, I believe, was September 11. That was then pushed up by about two weeks. Could this have been a more staggered departure process? Would that have reduced the pandemonium? I think Laurel’s point that that was unavoidable with an exit date is persuasive. So, yeah. I mean, it may not be a highly, you know, sort of popular media focus of attention but I do believe there is information out there and there will continue to be.

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