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State Department watchdog to lead review into Afghanistan withdrawal

Taliban struggles to run Afghanistan
World leaders discuss supporting Afghanistan 05:41

The State Department's acting Inspector General will lead a review of the Biden administration's handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, including the emergency evacuation of U.S. and Afghan nationals, according to congressional officials and correspondence reviewed by CBS News.

Diana R. Shaw, the Department's watchdog, wrote in a notification dated October 18 to the leadership of key House and Senate committees that her office would initiate "several oversight projects related to the suspension of operations at U.S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan."

The review, according to Shaw's letter, will focus on four areas, including the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program; Afghans processed for refugee admission in the United States; the resettlement of Afghan refugees and visa recipients; and the embassy in Kabul's emergency action planning and execution, "including the evacuation of U.S. citizens and Afghan nationals."

"Given the elevated interest in this work by Congress and the unique circumstances requiring coordination across the Inspector General community, I wanted to notify our committees of jurisdiction of this important work," Shaw wrote. The notification was sent to the leadership of the Senate and House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Appropriations committees, as well as several others.

Ben Shread/MoD Crown Copyright via Getty Images

The news of the State Department review was first reported by Politico.

The administration's chaotic withdrawal has drawn criticism from lawmakers of both parties, and several committees have held public hearings in recent weeks to demand answers from top State Department and Pentagon officials.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan also said in August the administration would conduct a "hot wash" review of the U.S. withdrawal, but a spokesperson said earlier this month there was no update on whether it had begun or would proceed.

The Defense Department has already announced their Inspector General will be conducting their own evaluation of August 29 strike in Kabul that killed as many as 10 civilians, an audit of the Defense Department screening of displaced Afghans and an evaluation of the screening of displaced persons from Afghanistan.

Between August 17 and October 17, approximately 75,000 people evacuated from Afghanistan arrived in the U.S, according to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) data shared with CBS News on Monday. The vast majority are Afghans who were determined to be at risk in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. The rest are U.S. citizens and permanent residents, as well as a small number of third country nationals.

Most of the Afghan evacuees brought to the U.S. under Operational Allies Welcome have been relocated to eight domestic military sites, where they have been undergoing immigration paperwork and vaccination. Officials are currently working on connecting tens of thousands of Afghans with non-profit resettlement agencies that will help them integrate into U.S. communities.

Because of the frantic nature of the evacuations, most Afghan evacuees have entered the U.S. under a conditional humanitarian immigration process known as parole, not as traditional refugees or visa holders. Those who assisted the American war effort may acquire permanent U.S. status through Special Immigrant Visas, but others may need to seek asylum to remain in the country permanently, unless Congress passes a White House-proposed legalization program.

Eleanor Watson contributed to this report.

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