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State Department Officials testified they had to create Afghanistan withdrawal plans from scratch

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Transcripts of interviews from three top State Department officials with the House Foreign Affairs Committee explain they were rushed to Afghanistan with virtually no time to prepare for the U.S. withdrawal. Additionally, the officials admitted there was no established emergency evacuation plan in place when they arrived.

CNN reports on the three officials, John Bass, Jim DeHart and Jayne Howell, who “were all plucked from unrelated assignments and rushed into Afghanistan in the hours after Kabul fell to the Taliban due to their extensive experience in Afghanistan.”

The transcripts “are the latest tranche of more than a dozen interviews conducted by the committee as a key part of Republican Chairman Michael McCaul’s ongoing investigation into the 2021 evacuation that involved the deaths of 13 US service members.”

CNN reports of the transcripts, it says was exclusively obtained by the news outlet:

The new details paint a picture of the chaos outside the Kabul airport and the ad-hoc nature of the evacuation, something that top US military generals suggested could have been mitigated if the State Department had called sooner for a “noncombatant evacuation operation” – known as a NEO – for remaining US citizens in Afghanistan.

“I cannot emphasize enough to you that minute to minute, what was happening was changing,” Howell said in her July 2023 interview.

DeHart said they had to “create from scratch tactical operations that would get our priority people into the airport.” He added: “we were roughly as effective as we could be under the circumstances.”

Bass, who served as the top State Department coordinator on the evacuation efforts on the ground, echoed those sentiments.

“We were already in the midst of executing an evacuation that substantially exceeded I think the scope and scale of what had been contemplated,” explained Bass.

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education

Columbia alumni are also anti-Israel, threaten to withhold $77 million in donations

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2,000 people claiming to be Columbia University alumni have signed a letter pledging to “withhold all financial, programmatic, and academic support” from the institution until it meets the demands of anti-Israel protesters. The result is $77 million in donations is at risk.

National Review reports that the letter, addressed to Columbia president Minouche Shafik and the school’s trustees, expresses support for the protesters who oppose the university’s “continued collaboration with the Israeli government’s ongoing genocidal violence against Palestinians.”

“The movement for Palestinian liberation, on campus and globally, is often led by Jewish people of many nations,” the letter says. “Weaponizing claims about antisemitism to silence student speech is based on faulty logic, harms Jewish students, and distracts from true antisemitism, including the attempts by a craven American right to tokenize, exploit, and appropriate Jewish trauma and resilience.”

There does not appear to be a process to verify that people who sign the letters are, in fact, Columbia alumni. It allows people to sign anonymously.

The letter condemns the “administration’s brutal repression of student speech and assembly,” specifically president Shafik’s decision to call in the New York Police Department Strategic Response Group on protesters. Hundreds of anti-Israel protesters were arrested at Columbia and at the City College of New York on April 30, including some who barricaded themselves inside a campus admissions building.

Signatories of the letter are pledging to withhold donations until the university meets 13 demands, including: that it divests from companies that “fund or profit from Israeli apartheid, genocide, and occupation of Palestine”; calls for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war; removes Shafik as president; bans the NYPD from campus; and drops charges against student activists, reverses disciplinary measures against them, and finances the healthcare for students who were “brutalized” by the police.

The website where the letter is shared claims that the signatories have previously provided over $67 million in financial contributions to Columbia, and that over $77 million in donations are now at risk.

The letter also claims that the university “failed to hold accountable the former Israeli soldiers who carried out a chemical attack on protesting students in January 2024.” That seems to be a reference to an incident involving anti-Israel protesters who told the student-run Columbia Spectator that during a demonstration earlier this year they were sprayed with “skunk,” a chemical developed by the Israeli Defense Forces.

While this letter is from supporters of the anti-Israel protesters, Columbia has also received pushback from opponents who say the school is allowing protesters to break the law, disrupt the educational environment, and harass Jewish students, adds National Review.

On Monday, 13 federal judges sent a letter to Columbia leaders saying they will no longer hire the school’s students as clerks due to their behavior and the school’s mismanagement of anti-Israel protests, writing that “Columbia has disqualified itself from educating the future leaders of our country.”

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a Columbia alumnus, said in April that he would withhold donations from the university due to the anti-Israel protests.

“I am deeply saddened at the virulent hate that continues to grow on campus and throughout our country,” Kraft said in a statement. “I am no longer confident that Columbia can protect its students and staff and I am not comfortable supporting the university until corrective action is taken.”

 

 

 

 

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