Why Secretary of State Blinken Does Not Know How Many Americans Are in Afghanistan

https://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kgou/files/201401/IranUS-Geiseln1981.jpg
Ann Swift is in the last row standing next to a black gentleman. This was the Embassy staff in Tehran before they were taken hostage.

Normally when there is a crisis like the one unfolding in Afghanistan, the State Department would establish a Citizens Emergency Services Task Force. There is no such entity up and operating on the 7th Floor of State Department.

Let me explain how such a Task Force is supposed to operate. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990, the Secretary of State directed the Office of Counter Terrorism to stand up a Task Force. We were in the main Task Force room. In addition, the Bureau of Political Military Affairs set up a Task Force in room number 2. And down the hall, the Bureau of Consular Affairs tasked two of its most experienced diplomats–Elizabeth Ann Swift and Mary Ryan–to head up the Consular Affairs Task Force. Ann was in charge of Citizen Emergency Services and Mary was the principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs. Ann Swift brought unique experience to the mission–she was one of the hostages held by the Iranians starting in 1979.

Those two women set up a 24-7 operation staffed by at least 10 Consular Affairs officers. There were multiple phone lines and a computer at every position. The State Department published a number that anyone could call to report the location of an American citizen in Kuwait. As the calls rolled in a database was created that included the name, address, phone number, date of birth, social security number and passport number of the American stranded in Kuwait.

This was a dynamic list and grew by the minute. All the Secretary of State had to do to know the number of Americans in Kuwait was to call the Task Force and get the current number. That is how State Department did it back in the day.

But such a Task Force is not up and running. Instead, there are Consular Affairs officers (one per shift I’m told) attached to the Afghan Task Force. If you go to the State Department website you will find the following:

U.S. Citizens and Legal Permanent Residents:

  • U.S. citizens seeking assistance to depart Afghanistan should utilize this link: Repatriation Assistance Request  or in an emergency, call 1-888-407-4747 (U.S. Canada) or +1-202-501-4444 (overseas).  Legal permanent residents (LPRs) and spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens in Afghanistan who are awaiting immigrant visas should also complete this form.

There is no dedicated number for American citizens in the United States to call to report the situation about a loved one left behind in Afghanistan. Note the odd language, “in an emergency, call 1-888-407-4747.” What constitutes a frigging emergency?

Secretary of State Blinken and his staff have failed to employ the basic plan for handling this type of human crisis. I had a friend call the 888 number. None of the prompts gave the following option, “if you have the name of an American in Afghanistan please press #.” I spoke with the Consular Affairs rep on the main Task Force. The person was very polite, professional and overwhelmed. The person suggested that it would be better to contact the US Embassy in Kabul (I was given that advice around 930pm on 25 August).

This is a disgrace and it explains why Blinken does not know what is going on.

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17 Responses to Why Secretary of State Blinken Does Not Know How Many Americans Are in Afghanistan

  1. Ghost_Ship says:

    “I was given that advice around 930pm on 25 August”
    That’s 6.00am in Kabul. Normally a bit early but these days perhaps not so much.
    But the big question is why none of this was done back in July after Biden announced on July 8th that the withdrawal would be completed by August 31st. Perhaps the Pentagon, State Dept., CIA, etc. either didn’t believe him or thought that by prevaricating, the departure date would be put back having crossed the Taliban’s “red line”.

  2. Barbara Ann says:

    Contact the US Embassy in Kabul – what? There is clueless ineptitude and then there is this.

    Speaking of clueless, I see Kamala was in Hanoi yesterday on, as it happens, Võ Nguyên Giáp’s birthday. And what culturally sensitive activity did she engage in on this occasion you may ask. Well, she laid flowers at the war monument which celebrates the shoot down and capture of John McCain in 1967. The monument is very clearly intended to show his personal humiliation and that of the USAF, it includes an image of him hanging by his arms FFS. Kamala seemed to think (was told, I guess) it was a memorial to the man. Do State officials advising on such matters not accompany the VP on these trips? Is this (another) deliberate attempt to embarrass the US on the world stage? WTF is going on.

    • BillWade says:

      Maybe they can 25th Amendment her too. McCain was Navy.

    • Deap says:

      Exactly, I also saw this monument to US humiliation and Vietnamese national celebration on my own visit to Hanoi – to the victors go the spoils. Fair enough.

      WTF was Harris doing there with armloads of flowers …..for McCain? Honoring the fact McCain took on Trump and Cindy McCain, along with daughter Meghan are avowed NoTrumpers can be the only explanation.

      (DH was a flight surgeon on the same ship, when McCain left on that Hanoi bombing mission and never came back. The Oriskany in Yankee Station.)

    • cofer says:

      The regime sent Kamala away to distance her from the current crisis in Afghanistan, as she is about to get kicked up and violate the glass ceiling. Glancing at some headlines, seems as the media is selling the same falsehood about the McCaine memorial. What else can you expect from her staff and media, mostly made up of graduates of American re-education camps formerly known as universities?

    • RZ says:

      He is not hanging, he’s kneeling with his hands raised in surrender.

  3. Deap says:

    Mass casualty attack at the Baron Hotel, where American gathered at the Kabul Airport, promising the most secure location in Kabul and lists its security features:

    https://kabul.thebaronhotels.com/security_features.html

  4. Deap says:

    Karl Rove also has a detailed piece in the WSJ today describing what should have been happening at the POTUS and cabinet levels in preparation, yet no indications any joint planning meetings were ever held.

    Agree, what is this absurdity of “contacting the US Embassy in Kabul” when it has been evacuated. Heaven knows if even a skeleton operation still exists at the Kabul Airport. I see Clinton Foundation members in Kabul were among those NGO’s afforded special evacuation relief.

  5. Deap says:

    Four US soldiers killed and three wounded in Kabul suicide attacks: https://thepalmierireport.com/update-4-us-soldiers-killed-3-wounded-in-kabul-bombing/

    DNC will need to modify their unqualified praise for Biden “yet again exceeding all expectations” by conducting his orderly and safe Afghanistan evacuations.

  6. blue peacock says:

    FUBAR is the norm when politics over-rides governance. The Afghan withdrawal is just another symptom of a much larger malaise which is the absolute capture of the entire political, governmental and big business fabric by the Party of Davos while the American people are focused on distractions like inter-tribal warfare on a partisan & ideological basis.

    When the Taliban can give a great power the finger what will other large military powers do?

    • Carey says:

      I basically agree with your comment, BP, but about this part:

      > while the American people are focused on distractions like inter-tribal warfare on a partisan & ideological basis. <

      .. my take is that We the People's focus is *being pointedly focused* on those distractions by certain interested entities.

      • Sam says:

        “my take is that We the People’s focus is *being pointedly focused* on those distractions by certain interested entities.“

        That is exactly what the fascists have always done. It is our job to see the forest from the trees and know when smoke is blown up our ass.

  7. Deap says:

    How the media shapes the Biden Afghan withdrawal narrative: what presumptions still hold now in this fast moving story. Which ones will be pushed by the media tomorrow?

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/08/biden-afghanistan-midterms/619838/

  8. Sam says:

    How Defense Monopolies Helped Destroy the Afghan Army
    The cost of bad military contracting isn’t just waste. It is catastrophe.

    https://mattstoller.substack.com/p/how-a-lack-fo-right-to-repair-in

    Increasing concentration has been a feature of our system for decades. Not just in the defense industry but pretty much across all market segments. The consequences are plain to see. But the American people prefer bread & circuses.

    • Fred says:

      Thanks Sam, that was worth a laugh. The Afghan general didn’t stay and fight for his country because he could not fix his electronic equipment. He’s truly a man of honor dedicated to his people and his nation. BTW did he say what equipment the Taliban have? Open sources say they sure didn’t have trouble communicating via Whatapp. Can’t wait to see the lawsuits against FB for helping coordinate all the ongoing terror bombings.

      • Sam says:

        Fred,

        Don’t blame the Afghan “army”. They were always just a Potemkin force to enable the Beltway Bandits at all times. Of course our handpicked guys in the “Afghan army” also made enough baksheesh to have mansions in Dubai. Let’s not forget the Pakistani generals who also made off handsomely while financing and organizing the Taliban and the jihadists. The blame ought to rightly be with Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld and Obama/Petraeus et al and of course Trump/Mattis, et al. They didn’t listen to wisened folks like Col.Lang because that didn’t fit with their real agenda.

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