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Kabul NEO Planning

 

Biden conducting meeting with staff about Kabul NEO.

President Biden, while at Camp David, conducts a meeting with staff
about the Kabul NEO. (Photo by White House, August 15, 2021)


Planning for the NEO

The operation was mounted at the last possible minute and will be used as an example by historians as to how not to conduct a noncombatant evacuation operationr or NEO, at least in the early stages of the operation. Certainly the U.S. military personnel involved in the air and ground operations in theater did a fine job, but the planning by the White House and State Department appeared to be inadequate and the execution at the last minute. Given the enormous capacity and capability of the U.S. military it will certainly gain momentum and provide the necessary results as long as the Taliban are cooperative.

After President Biden's public announcement that the U.S. would withdraw from Afghanistan in April 2021 the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered Central Command (CENTCOM) to begin preparing for a potential NEO in Afghanistan. The military prepostioned ground units, naval vessels, and Air Force elements forward in the Middle East to be prepared for a NEO. These additional forces would augment those already in the region. In addition, DoD and CENTCOm conducted practice exercises to review contingencies.

A NEO is triggered by an order by the Department of State to conduct an evacuation. This order by DoS came way too late - one day before the capital city of Kabul fell to the Taliban.

The U.S. military had on the airport up to 1,000 troops. Once Kabul was threatened the US made plans to dispatch an additional 3,000 troops to increase the security posture at the airport. This would bring the total to 4,000. On Sunday, August 16, 2021, it was determined that an additional 2,000 troops would be needed bringing the total to 6,000 (and possibly 7,000).

Deconfliction with the Taliban

The United States reached a deal with the Taliban to ensure that the evacuations from the military side of the Kabul airport could proceed without Taliban interference. The deal was reached during negotiations in Doha, Qatar. General Frank Mckenzie, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) commander took part in the discussions. Representatives from both sides at the local level are conducting coordination multiple times a day on the passage of personnel through checkpoints at the airport.

 

 


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