Joe Biden review blames Donald Trump’s decisions for chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal

President Joe Biden's administration blamed conditions created by President Donald Trump for the chaotic withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021, according to a summary of findings from an administration-wide after-action review released Thursday.

The 12-page summary document does not overtly admit any mistakes. Still, it acknowledges certain lessons that have been applied since, including on the speed of evacuating citizens and allies. And it cites intelligence that provided overly rosy projections of the security situation and notes Biden followed recommendations from his military commanders in executing the withdrawal.

Overall, the summary's principal description is of a difficult situation made more onerous by Trump's decisions when he was in office, including entering into an agreement with the Taliban requiring US troops to withdraw by May 2021.

Classified findings from the long-awaited reviews by the State Department and Pentagon were also transmitted to Congress on Thursday, fulfilling a White House pledge to provide the information following the bloody and chaotic withdrawal, which included a deadly bombing at Kabul International Airport that killed 13 US troops.

In remarks describing the summary of the report, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby defended Biden's decision to withdraw and stressed the work the administration did once they took office.

"Despite having his options curtailed, President Biden led a deliberate, rigorous and inclusive decision-making process that was responsive to facts on the ground. He focused keenly on the need for proper planning," Kirby said.

He rejected the notion the withdrawal was chaotic.

"For all this talk of chaos, I just didn't see it," he said.

Decisions taken by Trump's administration "severely constrained" Biden's options for the withdrawal, the summary reads. It says Biden inherited a situation in which "the Taliban were in the strongest military position that they had been in since 2001, controlling or contesting nearly half of the country."

The report cites the agreement Trump reached with the Taliban in 2020, arguing it limited Biden's options for withdrawing American troops. Kirby also said the Trump administration provided little information or intelligence to the incoming Biden team about the Afghanistan situation.

"Transitions matter - that's the first lesson learned here. And the incoming administration wasn't afforded much of one," Kirby said.

Responding to the summary findings, a spokesman for Trump said "Biden and his administration are trying to gaslight the American people for their disastrous withdrawal in Afghanistan that directly led to American deaths and emboldened the terrorists."

The summary ardently defends Biden's decision to order a complete withdrawal, which he has justified as necessary to end the 20-year conflict in Afghanistan.

"There were no signs that more time, more funds, or more Americans at risk in Afghanistan would have yielded a fundamentally different trajectory," the summary reads.

Much of the chaos surrounding the withdrawal involved attempts to withdraw Americans and Afghans who assisted the war effort, including translators. One of the most searing images from the time was of desperate Afghans clinging to an American plane as it took off, later falling to their deaths.

After the chaotic attempts to evacuate US citizens and those who assisted the American war effort, the administration said it now works to facilitate departures earlier in other situations.

"We now prioritize earlier evacuations when faced with a degrading security situation," the summary states, using the war in Ukraine as an example of earlier evacuations.

Similarly, the administration will work to more assertively communicate the risks of remaining in unsafe situations.

"In a destabilizing security environment, we now err on the side of aggressive communication about risks," the summary reads.

Multiple federal agencies conducted reviews following the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. Their release was initially targeted to the one-year anniversary of the pullout, but were delayed as the agencies completed their work.

The after-action report was commissioned through the National Defense University, a defense official told CNN. The NDU is funded by the Defense Department, but officials have characterized the review the NDU carried out as "independent."

Following the US withdrawal in August 2021, the Afghan government collapsed and the Taliban swiftly returned to power.

A bombing outside the Kabul International Airport's Abbey Gate also killed 13 US service members - 11 Marines, 1 soldier and 1 sailor - along with approximately 170 Afghans.

President Joe Biden ordered up the reviews to determine what went wrong.

"We will take a look at every aspect of this from top to bottom," he said.

After taking control of the US House of Representatives, Republicans have also begun looking into the Afghanistan withdrawal, requesting documents and communications are part of their probe.