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Top US Commander: Afghan Evacuation Hurt by Pleas for Help From WH, Pope, Others

Top US Commander: Afghan Evacuation Hurt by Pleas for Help From WH, Pope, Others

A Qatar Airways aircraft takes off with foreigners from the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. (Bernat Armangue/AP)

By    |   Thursday, 10 February 2022 11:05 AM EST

A multitude of appeals for help from various groups hindered the U.S. military from evacuating American citizens and foreign allies from Afghanistan, the operation's senior commander said.

Rear Adm. Peter Vasely said outreach from White House officials, lawmakers, war veterans, media outlets, and others was a "distraction" that "created competition for already stressed resources," The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, the Post obtained a declassified report stemming from a U.S. Army investigation of the Aug. 26, 2021, suicide bombing that killed 13 U.S. service members and an estimated 170 Afghan civilians outside Kabul's airport.

Vasely's sworn testimony was included in that report.

The rear admiral, a Navy SEAL, said he diverted personnel and established a "coordination cell" responsible for processing the overwhelming volume of communications from Washington and elsewhere after thousands of phone calls, text messages, and emails flooded the U.S. operations center at Kabul’s airport throughout the evacuation, the Post reported.

Vasely said the stated priority was to evacuate, in order, American citizens, lawful permanent residents, and Afghans who had aided the U.S. during its 20-year war.

"But you had everyone from the White House down with a new flavor of the day for prioritization," Vasely told Army investigators, the Post reported.

About 124,000 people were evacuated before midnight on Aug. 31.

Pope Francis and first lady Jill Biden were among those who reached out for help.

"That's accurate," Vasely said, the Post reported. "I was being contacted by representatives from the Holy See to assist the Italian military contingent … in getting through groups … of special interest to the Vatican. That is just one of many examples.

"I cannot stress enough how these high-profile requests ate up bandwidth and created competition for already stressed resources."

Vasely told investigators that he understood why people were reaching out.

"There was all goodness in this, but the lesson learned is it was a distraction from the main effort as they were coming directly to the individuals on the ground trying to accomplish the task at hand," Vasely told investigators, the Post said.

Vasely said that by Aug. 22 or 23, "it was clear we weren't going to get all Americans out" and that he "started having conversations at senior levels" of the U.S. government about extending its deadline.

However, President Joe Biden pledged in an Aug. 22 news conference that no American who wanted to leave would be left behind. "I will say again today [what] I have said before: Any American who wants to get home will get home," he said.

State Department officials said they believed there were about 100 American citizens in Afghanistan who wanted to leave. They later said that more than 450 left with American assistance after the military evacuation ended.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


Newsfront
A multitude of appeals for help from various groups hindered the U.S. military from evacuating American citizens and foreign allies from Afghanistan, the operation's senior commander said.
afghanistan, evacuation, pleas, help, white house
462
2022-05-10
Thursday, 10 February 2022 11:05 AM
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