Leaked documents show Biden's office was still discussing evacuation plans before the Taliban invasion

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US President Joe Biden speaks during a memorial service for the late US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 8, 2022.
  • Biden officials were making decisions on Afghanistan evacuations hours before the Taliban takeover. 
  • Axios reported that leaked documents showed basic decisions had not been made as of August 14. 
  • The Taliban took over Afghanistan on August 15, 2021, and US troops withdrew by the end of that month. 
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President Joe Biden's administration reacted slowly and was unprepared to evacuate Afghans who helped the US after the Taliban took over Kabul in August, according to leaked notes from a White House Situation Room meeting obtained by Axios

The outlet said a National Security Council "summary of conclusions" document from an August 14 meeting held between 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. eastern time, when Taliban fighters were closing in on Kabul, shows the Biden administration made several crucial decisions just hours before the Taliban took over on August 15. 

As the Taliban was getting close to taking over the country, senior officials were still talking over basic mass civilian evacuation actions. Axios reported that though the document they obtained featured the word "immediately" several times, officials were still determining which countries would be transit stops for evacuees on August 14.

The document also said officials decided the Embassy in Kabul should "immediately" inform locally employed staff  "to register their interest in relocation to the United States and begin to prepare immediately for departure," during that August 14 meeting. 

Senior officials from multiple agencies, including Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Hyten, attended the meeting. 

Axios added that earlier in 2021, former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who fled after the Taliban takeover, had asked Biden not to do a mass evacuation because he was worried it would show a lack of faith in his government, but Biden officials overestimated the Afghan military ability to withstand the Taliban. 

Over 120,000 people were ultimately evacuated from Afghanistan by the August 31 deadline to withdraw troops.

The White House did not respond to Insider's request for comment. In a statement to Axios, NSC spokesperson 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."  

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