State Department Decision to Abolish Crisis Response Bureau 'Mucked Up' Afghanistan Exit, Report Says

Emergency evacuations operations coordinator resigned over decision

Taliban fighters atop a Humvee vehicle take part in a rally in Kabul on August 31, 2021 as they celebrate after the U.S. pulled all its troops out of the country. / Getty Images
August 31, 2021

The State Department's decision to abolish a crisis response bureau, as first reported by the Washington Free Beacon, "mucked up America's exit from Afghanistan" and prompted the resignation of the department's top physician, according to a new report in Vanity Fair.

The Free Beacon reported earlier this month that the State Department moved in June to dissolve the Contingency and Crisis Response Bureau (CCR), a Trump-era project that was meant to coordinate the evacuation of Americans from hotspots overseas. The decision was made just months before the Biden administration pulled U.S. troops out of Afghanistan and sparked a chaotic rescue effort that sources inside and outside of the State Department said could have been bolstered by the CCR.

The Biden administration's decision to scuttle the CCR bureau prompted the resignation of William Walters, the State Department's top physician and coordinator of emergency evacuation operations, according to Vanity Fair.

"I am resigning," Walters reportedly told Secretary of State Antony Blinken in June, saying that Blinken's "decision not to move forward with the establishment of the CCR bureau, which Walters had been slated to lead, was a mistake."

"Given simmering tensions in Afghanistan and elsewhere, Walters said, he believed that throwing out plans for the new unit … would impact State's ability to respond to threats to U.S. diplomats and citizens abroad," Vanity Fair wrote.

These concerns came to fruition months later, as the State Department scrambled to evacuate Americans stranded in Taliban-controlled Kabul, where many Americans remain trapped after the Biden administration's decision to not keep troops in the country past Aug. 31.

Blinken originally expressed support for the CCR bureau before delegating responsibility for it to his deputy, Brian McKeon, according to Vanity Fair.

The Free Beacon obtained a memo signed by McKeon authorizing the CCR bureau's termination.

While the "fact checking" website PolitiFact attempted to downplay and undercut the Free Beacon’s reporting, the Vanity Fair article provides confirmation about the CCR bureau's fate.