President Joe Biden ordered the Department of Defense to begin contingency planning for the evacuation of U.S citizens in Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

This plan would involve some of the 1,700 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division that are being deployed to Poland to begin preparations for an evacuation. Unnamed officials described measures such as establishing checkpoints and other temporary facilities on the Polish side of the border that would serve the estimated 30,000 Americans who are now in Ukraine. None of these soldiers are authorized to enter Ukraine itself and they will not be flying aircraft inside the country, according to the Journal's sources.

The White House has not let up from its warnings that Russia can launch an offensive into Ukraine “any day now” in the words of Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. Washington has already ordered family members of U.S diplomats in Kyiv to return home, a move followed by several other U.S allies like Canada and the United Kingdom.

Ukraine’s government opposed the decision, arguing that doing so contributed to anxiety that could trickle into the Ukrainian economy. Many Ukrainians have continued to go about their daily lives amidst the standoff with Russia, but some are reportedly preparing to evacuate if the worst comes to pass. Russia denies it has any plan to invade Ukraine.

Russia has amassed some 100,000 troops near its border of ex-Soviet Ukraine
Russia has amassed some 100,000 troops near its border of ex-Soviet Ukraine AFP / Sergei Supinsky

In the background of this decision is the specter of the chaotic U.S withdrawal from Afghanistan last August. The airlift was considered one of the largest, most complicated airlifts in decades, but the Biden administration was widely panned by members of Congress as well as its NATO allies for failing to adequately plan for an evacuation.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Biden's press secretary Jen Psaki said that the situation in Ukraine should be considered separate from the one in Afghanistan last year and assured reporters that the president was coordinating closely with his national security team.

"I would say that we believe and we continue to view our relationship — both from the White House, from the diplomatic team, and from the Defense Department — as one where we are closely coordinating," said Psaki. "The situation on the border of Ukraine with Russian troops building up is not the same as ending a 20-year war.”

In a report by the U.S Army obtained by the Washington Post on Tuesday, military officers testified that officials in the White House and State Department failed to heed reports that the Afghan capital Kabul would fall in the weeks leading up to the airlift and they resisted efforts by the Pentagon to prepare evacuation planning.

A week earlier, a separate report by Senate Republicans said that the administration's evacuation from Afghanistan was "marred by a lack of planning, coordination, and communication." The result, they added, was thousands of Afghans who worked for Washington being left behind as well as U.S citizens and permanent residents.

Several of the military commanders responsible for executing the Afghan airlift are now involved in contingency planning for Ukraine, according to the Wall Street Journal. Army Maj. Gen. C.D. Donahue, who supervised last year's operation, is now leading the troops stationed in Poland, the Journal reports.

Afghans gathered on August 20 near Kabul airport, hoping to flee the country as the Taliban returned to power
The Taliban took over Kabul two weeks before the U.S. completed its military withdrawal from the country. In photo: Afghans gathered on August 20 near Kabul airport, hoping to flee the country as the Taliban returned to power. AFP / Wakil KOHSAR