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‘These High-Profile Requests Ate Up Bandwidth’: Top U.S. Commander During Kabul Evacuation Says Jill Biden, Pope Made Special Requests

Last updated on February 11, 2022

Declassified remarks made by Rear Adm. Peter Vasely, the top U.S. commander in Kabul during the evacuation of U.S. troops last August, reveal that he was plagued during the evacuation by requests from first lady Jill Biden and Pope Francis, among others, who requested special treatment for people of their own choosing.

Vasely was asked by the Army’s lead investigator, Brig. Gen. Lance Curtis, if reports that the Pope and the first lady had asked for special help were true. He answered, “That’s accurate. 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,” as The Washington Post reported.

Vasely added, “You had everyone from the White House down with a new flavor of the day for prioritization.”

“Vasely called the outreach a ‘distraction’ that ‘created competition for already stressed resources,’” the Post, which obtained the 2,000 page report through a FOIA request, stated. His statements were made during testimony for a U.S. Army investigation of the August 26 suicide bombing that killed 13 U.S. service members outside Kabul’s international airport.

Despite the fact that on August 22, President Biden promised that no American who wanted to leave would be left behind, declaring, “I will say again today [what] I have said before: Any American who wants to get home will get home,” Vasely told investigators that by August 22 or 23, “it was clear we weren’t going to get all Americans out.” He added that he “started having conversations at senior levels” of the U.S. government about the possibility of pushing the evacuation efforts past the August 31 deadline.

“When the mission ended, State Department officials said they believed there were about 100 American citizens left in Afghanistan who wanted to leave. They revised that several times, eventually saying that more than 450 left with American assistance after the military evacuation concluded,” the Post acknowledged.

In early February, The Daily Wire reported that he day before Kabul fell to the Taliban last August, a White House Situation Room meeting found senior Biden administration officials were still disorganized about how to evacuate Afghan nationals who were aiding the U.S. in its war against the Taliban, according to leaked notes.

Axios, discussing the leaked notes, reported:

While the word “immediately” peppers the document, it’s clear officials were still scrambling to finalize their plans — on the afternoon of Aug. 14.

For example, they’d just decided they needed to notify local Afghan staff “to begin to register their interest in relocation to the United States, ” the document says.

And they were still determining which countries could serve as transit points for evacuees.

A document titled, “Summary of Conclusions for Meeting of the Deputies Small Group” showed that a meeting regarding “Relocations out of Afghanistan” was held from 3:30-4:30 p.m. on the afternoon of August 14, while Taliban fighters were arriving in Kabul. The meeting was chaired by National Security Council official Liz Sherwood-Randall and included Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Actions to be taken “immediately” included, “State will work to identify as many countries as possible to serve as transit points. Transit points need to be able to accommodate U.S. citizens, Afghan nationals, third country nationals, and other evacuees.”

It also said, “Embassy Kabul will notify LES [locally employed staff] to begin to register their interest in relocation to the United States and begin to prepare immediately for departure …”

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