Despite warnings that Kabul was at risk of collapse, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was vacationing in the Hamptons just hours before the Taliban invaded the Afghan capital and toppled the government, according to a report.
On the Friday afternoon before the fall of Kabul on Aug. 15, many senior White House staffers prepared to go on vacation after President Biden left for his Camp David retreat, according to the Washington Post’s detailed timeline of the Taliban takeover.
Blinken headed to the Hamptons, according to the paper.
His family has had a longtime presence in East Hampton, where Blinken’s father, Donald Blinken, a US ambassador to Hungary under President Bill Clinton, has lived seasonally on Lily Pond Lane for some 50 years, the East Hampton Star reported.
But Blinken and other top Biden administration officials — who expected the Afghan government to hang on for weeks — had to be called back to Washington, DC, when the insurgents swept to power, according to the Washington Post.
After the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif on Aug. 13, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called for the immediate transfer of all US Embassy workers to the Kabul airport, an American official familiar with the call told the outlet.
And by the next evening, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani spoke by phone with Blinken, who sought the beleaguered leader’s support for a US-brokered agreement with the Taliban in which they would stay outside the city if he would step aside as an interim government took over, the Washington Post reported.
Ghani soon fled the Afghan capital.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Ross Wilson’s personnel continued to frantically destroy classified documents and equipment in the embassy compound since Aug. 13, according to the paper, which obtained an internal memo that urged staff to use incinerators, disintegrators and “burn bins.”
They also were directed to destroy “American flags, or items which could be misused in propaganda efforts,” the paper said.
Biden has been widely criticized over his handling of the pullout of US forces from the war-torn country after a protracted 21-year presence and the events that led to the suicide bombing that killed more than 180 people, including 13 US service members.
The terror group ISIS-K has been blamed for carrying out the attack, which came as US and allied forces scrambled to evacuate thousands from the airport.