Secretary of State Antony Blinken was reportedly vacationing in the Hamptons just hours before Kabul fell to the Taliban, despite warnings that the city was at risk.
Blinken was one of several top-level Biden administration officials to have gone on vacation the Friday before the Afghan capitol was taken by the group on August 15.
President Joe Biden himself was also on a trip away, and had arrived at the presidential retreat at Camp David that day.
Blinken was already on vacation, according to a timeline of the events leading up to Kabul’s capture compiled by the Washington Post.
The officials appeared to not be overly concerned with the situation on the ground, the outlet reported.
Intelligence reports had estimated that Kabul was not likely to be at risk from the Taliban for several months – probably until at least late fall.
But the Afghanistan military collapsed and the warlords swept through the country in a little over a week.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken (right) was vacationing in the Hamptons hours before Kabul fell to the Taliban
The administration’s response to Afghanistan’s swift collapse was widely criticized, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy blasting the president last week for hiding.
‘Other countries are questioning whether we have the resolve to honor our word because of the bungled withdrawal. President Biden magnified this damage over the past week by hiding at Camp David. Delivering incoherent speeches,’ McCarthy said.
The Blinkens have longtime had a presence in East Hampton, where Blinken’s father Donald Blinken, a former US ambassador to Hungary under President Bill Clinton, has lived seasonally for more than 50 years, the East Hampton Star reported.
The elder Blinken had designed the stucco home on Lily Pond Lane himself, and it sits beside that of his younger brother, Robert’s, the New York Times reported in 1972.
It is not clear if the Secretary of State was staying with family or holidaying separately as the situation in Afghanistan collapsed.
The secretary of state’s father, Donald Blinken (pictured) built the family’s East Hampton home alongside his brother, Robert’s. He had served as ambassador to Hungary under President Bill Clinton. He is seen speaking at the 2017 American Foreign Policy Gala Awards Dinner
The Blinken family has lived seasonally in East Hampton for more than 50 years. It is not clear if Blinken was staying with family when Kabul collapsed
The Biden Administration’s slow response to Kabul’s sudden collapse was widely criticized. Biden is seen on August 16, 2021 at Camp David in a video conference with top officials. The president hesitated to return to the White House even as chaos unfolded
While the Secretary of State was vacationing, administration officials didn’t begin to scramble for a response until Saturday, the day before Kabul fell.
By the evening, Blinken was on the phone with President Ashraf Ghani, looking to negotiate a deal with the Taliban to stay outside the city in exchange for their place at the table in a future Afghan government, the Post reported.
It is not clear when he returned to Washington.
Blinken and other Biden administration official’s seemingly flat-footed response to the Taliban takeover came despite multiple warnings.
A dozen diplomats sent a confidential memo in a dissent channel to Blinken on July 13 that the Taliban was rapidly gaining ground and the city was vulnerable to collapse, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The State Department memo, according to the report, also called for the government to use tougher language on the violence in the past from the Taliban and urged them to start collecting information for Afghan allies who qualified for Special Immigrant Visas after working with US forces.
Taliban gunmen police a crowd of protesters trying to raise the flag of the Islamic Republican of Afghanistan during an Independence Day rally at Pashtunistan Square in Kabul on August 19. The capital city’s swift collapse appeared to catch Biden administration officials by surprise
The Journal reported that 23 Embassy staffers signed the cable and rushed to deliver it considering the deteriorating situation in Kabul.
Blinken reviewed the cable, a personal familiar with it told the paper.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told the Journal: ‘He’s made clear that he welcomes and encourages use of the dissent channel, and is committed to its revitalization. We value constructive internal dissent.’
The memo urged the administration to start flights evacuating people out of the country no later than August 1.
A former CIA counter-terrorism chief also advised the president’s campaign Kabul would crumble within days with a depleted American presence.
A US Air Force aircraft takes off from the military airport in Kabul on Friday, as the Pentagon said the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan still faces more possible attacks
In this satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies people are loading on an aircraft at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan on Friday
Afghan refugees arriving at the Rota Air Base in Spain on Friday. The airbase is shared by American and Spanish military forces
But in an interview released on August 19, President Biden claimed that he was never told that such a rapid collapse was possible.
And a day earlier, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he never saw any intelligence warning that the Afghan government could fall so quickly.
‘There was nothing that I or anyone else saw that indicated a collapse of this army and this government in 11 days,’ Milley said.
With the ignored warnings, the US and its allies only began evacuating their people along with vulnerable Afghans after Kabul had already fallen to the militants.
Blinken revealed Sunday that there are still 300 American citizens waiting for evacuation out of Afghanistan as the August 31 deadline for a full troop withdrawal nears.
‘We have about 300 American citizens left who have indicated to us that they want to leave,’ the Secretary of State told ABC’s This Week host Martha Raddatz.
‘We are very actively working to help them get to the airport, get on a plane, and get out of Afghanistan.’
With the rushed evacuation came bloodshed. This is the aftermath of Thursday’s suicide bomb attack outside Kabul airport. 170 people were killed in the bomb attack and more are imminent, American generals warned
The Pentagon announced that it already started withdrawing troops from Afghanistan after 13 U.S. service members and 150 Afghan civilians were killed in a suicide bombing outside the Kabul airport on Thursday.
Nearly 115,000 people have already been evacuated from Afghanistan, including Americans and Afghan allies. And since the end of July, 120,000 people have been relocated, the White House announced on Sunday.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday the administration cannot ‘guarantee’ everyone will get out.
On Sunday, the White House revealed that from 3:00 a.m. on Saturday to the same time Sunday, 2,900 people were evacuated from the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
Blinken also told ABC that another attack on the Kabul airport is ‘highly likely’.
‘This is very high risk,’ he said. ‘There is a high likelihood of additional attacks.’
‘This is the most dangerous time in an already extraordinarily dangerous mission,’ Blinken added.