President Joe Biden’s administration moved to stop plans intended to protect Americans trapped abroad just two months before thousands of U.S. citizens became stranded after the Taliban took control in Afghanistan.
A June 11 State Department memo obtained by Fox News authorized the “discontinuation of the establishment, and the termination of, the Contingency and Crisis Response Bureau (CCR),” it was reported Wednesday night.
The CCR, formed under Trump-era Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was assigned to provide “aviation, logistics, and medical support capabilities for the Department’s operational bureaus, thereby enhancing the secretary’s ability to protect American citizens overseas in connection with overseas evacuations in the aftermath of a natural or man-made disaster.”
The memo obtained by Fox News was described as being “sensitive but unclassified.” It was signed by Deputy Secretary of State Brian McKeon.
The CCR could have assisted in evacuating thousands of American citizens and allies trapped behind Taliban lines in Afghanistan.
A State Department spokesperson said it “is important to note that not only would the proposed Contingency and Crisis Response Bureau not have introduced any new capabilities to the Department, it was never formally established,” in an email to Fox News on Wednesday.
“Some administrative steps were taken before its establishment was paused, but the day-to-day operations of the team have not changed,” the spokesperson insisted in the email.
“Every requirement the Department delivered on last year, and since the proposed establishment of the bureau, can be delivered on today in the same manner if appropriate to do so.”
The speed with which the Taliban retook Afghanistan, as U.S. troops withdrew after a 20-year war, has led to chaotic scenes at the Kabul airport where diplomats, foreign citizens and Afghans were attempting to flee.
“We’re going to do everything we can to continue to try and deconflict and create passageways for them to get to the airfield. I don’t have the capability to go out and extend operations currently into Kabul,” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters Wednesday.
Biden told ABC News on Wednesday he did not believe the withdrawal could’ve happened without “chaos ensuing.”
“When you had the government of Afghanistan, the leader of that government, getting in a plane and taking off and going to another country, when you saw the significant collapse of the Afghan troops we had trained, up to 300,000 of them just leaving their equipment and taking off – that’s what happened,” he said.
The president said U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan until all Americans are out, even if that takes longer than his Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw.
“If there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay to get them all out,” Biden said.
Reuters contributed to this story.