By Kylie Atwood, CNN
August 20, 2021
Gen. Petraeus: The Taliban will be in an extraordinary bind 01:20
Washington (CNN)A group of US diplomats wrote a classified cable to Secretary of State Antony Blinken in mid-July warning that swift action needed to be taken because they believed the situation in Afghanistan could rapidly deteriorate and they feared a catastrophe.They laid out how the department should act quickly to process and evacuate Afghans who had assisted the United States and get them out of the country quickly.The diplomats decided to send the dissent memo because they felt previous warnings and recommendations they had made were being ignored and labeled alarmist, two State Department officials told CNN.
The classified cable, signed by more than a dozen US diplomats, urged specific steps to be taken, including starting a biometric enrollment program for the Afghans applying for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) or refugee status ahead of the evacuation, so they wouldn’t waste time before what they believed would be the imminent collapse of the Afghan government as the US withdrew.
The State Department responded to the cable within days of receiving it and followed through on some of the issues it raised, said a source familiar with the matter. But not all of the recommendations in the memo were quickly implemented, the diplomats said.The question of what advice was not heeded is likely to draw further scrutiny from lawmakers as they examine whether the administration could have done more to stop the chaos unfolding on the ground in Kabul after the fall of the Afghan government. The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul, has already called for a briefing about the cable.Click button to enter email to sign up for CNN’s Meanwhile in America newsletter.close dialog
The first evacuation flight arrived in the US on July 30, after pressure not only from the diplomats, but also bipartisan lawmakers and advocates.In the wake of the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan, many diplomats in Kabul were relocated from the country, and the embassy compound was shuttered. The core remaining personnel have relocated to the Hamid Karzai International Airport, where they are urgently working to evacuate American citizens, SIV applicants and other vulnerable Afghans.
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.