The Biden administration was still discussing evacuation plans for Afghanistan just hours before the Taliban gained control of Kabul, new documents have revealed.
Leaked notes from a White House Situation Room meeting showed that on August 14, the same day on which the US began its evacuation of international citizens and vulnerable Afghan civilians, officials were still drawing up plans for its exit strategy, and had yet to make a number of 'basic decisions' about the process.
The meeting in question was held by members of the National Security Council, and took place between 3:30pm and 4:30pm EST, at which point Taliban fighters were closing in on capturing the Afghanistan capital.
The notes, which were obtained by Axios, included several decisions taken on the evacuation process which were ordered to be implemented 'immediately,' including informing locally employed workers that they should 'register their interest in relocation to the United States and begin to prepare immediately for departure.'
According to the 'summary of conclusions' document, officials were also still working out plans for which countries evacuees should be taken to as transit stops.
President Biden has been heavily criticised for the Afghanistan withdrawal mission, with officials accused of being unprepared for the speed at which the Taliban were able to take back control of the country, underestimating the ability of government-backed forces to hold them off.
Following a two week evacuation process the US officially withdrew the last of its troops from the country, with 120,000 people evacuated by an international coalition by August 31.
Biden had previously pledged to complete the United States' withdrawal from Afghanistan by September 11. The chaotic scenes out of Afghanistan caused the president's approval ratings to plummet, and he has struggled to recover in the months since.
In a statement to Axios, National Security Council representative Emily Horne said, 'While we're not going to comment on leaked internal documents, cherry-picked notes from one meeting do not reflect the months of work that were already underway.
'Earlier that summer, we launched Operation Allies Refuge and had worked with Congress to pass legislation that gave us greater flexibility to quickly relocate Afghan partners. It was because of this type of planning and other efforts that we were able to facilitate the evacuation of more than 120,000 Americans, legal permanent residents, vulnerable Afghans and other partners.'
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