Breaking News
0
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your Investing.com experience. Save up to 40% More details

Afghan army collapse 'took us all by surprise,' U.S. defense secretary says

PoliticsSep 28, 2021 06:37PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
 
4/4 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Marines honor their fallen service members killed in action during a ramp ceremony at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 27, 2021. Picture taken August 27, 2021. U.S. Central Command/Handout via REUTERS 2/4

By Phil Stewart and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Congress on Tuesday that the Afghan army's sudden collapse caught the Pentagon "by surprise," as military leaders confronted a contentious Senate hearing about how and why America lost its longest war.

Republican lawmakers accused President Joe Biden of lying about recommendations from his military that some troops should be kept in Afghanistan. Even Biden's Democrats expressed frustration with a chaotic withdrawal that left U.S. troops dead and American citizens behind.

Biden's approval ratings have been badly damaged by last month's spectacular collapse of the two-decade war effort, with painful images of Afghans clinging desperately to a U.S. military plane as they tried to escape Taliban rule.

Thirteen U.S. troops also died in an Aug. 26 suicide bombing trying to safeguard the evacuation effort that, ultimately, relied on support from the militant Islamist Taliban, a long-time U.S. foe.

General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Frank McKenzie of U.S. Central Command also acknowledged being caught off-guard by the speed of the Taliban takeover and collapse of the U.S.-backed government in Kabul.

It was their first public congressional testimony since the Taliban won the war in August.

"The fact that the Afghan army we and our partners trained simply melted away – in many cases without firing a shot – took us all by surprise," Austin, a former four-star general who served in Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"It would be dishonest to claim otherwise."

McKenzie and Milley testified that they had believed it would have been best to keep a minimum of 2,500 troops in the country. In an August interview, Biden denied his commanders had recommended that, saying: "No. No one said that to me that I can recall."

Republican Senator Joni Ernst said Biden's decision to keep former President Donald Trump's unconditional withdrawal agreement with the Taliban had squandered U.S. sacrifices for what he thought would be "a cheap political victory."

"The loss of our service members, and abandonment of Americans and Afghan allies last month was an unforced, disgraceful humiliation that didn't have to happen," Ernst said.

Senator James Inhofe, the panel's top Republican, described it as a "horror of the president's own making."

White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said Biden's military experts had provided "a range of viewpoints" about Afghanistan, and that Biden believed leaving troops there would "mean war with the Taliban."

Milley, the top U.S. military officer, noted military warnings since late 2020 that an accelerated, unconditional withdrawal could precipitate the collapse of the Afghan military and government.

"That was a year ago. My assessment remained consistent throughout," Milley said.

'WHY DON'T YOU RESIGN?'

Republican Senator Tom Cotton asked Milley why, if everything he said was true, he didn't resign his position.

Milley pushed back strongly, saying a U.S. president does not have to agree with the advice of his generals. "This country doesn't want generals figuring out what orders we are going to accept and do or not. That's not our job," Milley said.

Austin, Milley and senators - many of whom oversaw the war effort for years - seemed full of questions about what went wrong, citing failures to appreciate the impact of corruption and damaged morale in the ranks.

"There's a series of strategic lessons to be learned," Milley said.

Democrats faulted Republicans for blaming Biden, who has been president since January, for everything that went wrong during the 20 years U.S. troops have been in Afghanistan, including under Trump.

"Anyone who says the last few months were a failure, but everything before that was great, clearly hasn't been paying attention," Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren said.

Much of the hearing was devoted to Republicans' questions about Milley's interviews with Bob Woodward (NASDAQ:WWD) and other reporters for books on the chaotic last months the former president was in the White House.

Austin praised U.S. personnel who helped airlift 124,000 people out of the country.

But Milley acknowledged that while the evacuation effort was a logistical accomplishment, the withdrawal was a "strategic defeat" that left the Taliban back in power.

He warned the Taliban "remains a terrorist organization" which has not broken ties with al Qaeda.

A reconstituted al Qaeda in Afghanistan with aspirations to attack the United States was "a very real possibility" - perhaps in as little as a year, he said.

That warning is likely to unsettle lawmakers, who are skeptical of the Pentagon's ability to quickly respond to al Qaeda and Islamic State threats.

Austin defended plans to address future counterterrorism threats from overseas after a botched drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians last month.

"Over-the-horizon operations are difficult but absolutely possible. And the intelligence that supports them comes from a variety of sources, not just U.S. boots on the ground," Austin said.

Afghan army collapse 'took us all by surprise,' U.S. defense secretary says
 

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at Investing.com’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
Post also to:
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Comments (4)
Forex Harbingers
Forex Harbingers Oct 04, 2021 3:23PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
And because you evaced the troops before the civvies, you had no contingency plan. Showing your incompetence.
Felipe Daniel
Felipe Daniel Sep 28, 2021 4:23PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Biden was eating ice cream the whole time
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi Sep 28, 2021 4:23PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
and what did your dear orange leader do in the last 4 years to boost the moral and capability of the Afgan army, other than signing the peace treaty with the Taliban without Afgan govt's participation?
Felipe Daniel
Felipe Daniel Sep 28, 2021 4:23PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Tre Hsi Is Trump president now?
Frederick Chotsky
Chotsky Sep 28, 2021 11:23AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
HA! He's stealing this from the George W. playbook! "Nobody could ever expect a *****to fly airplanes into buildings"
Frederick Chotsky
Chotsky Sep 28, 2021 11:23AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Really?! They censored the word ***
James Hilliard
James Hilliard Sep 28, 2021 11:22AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
if troops would have said no to the orders 20 years ago, we wouldn't have the afghan problem. 9/11 was an inside job. buildings that tall only fall straight down with very well designed explosives.
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi Sep 28, 2021 11:22AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
you are putting that 20 year old tin foil hat again?
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's Investing.com's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
or
Sign up with Email