The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing to question and hear testimonies from military leaders on Afghanistan withdrawal.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee met to hear from a panel of witnesses on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan. Those witnesses included Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Joint Chief of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley, and Commander of U.S. Central Command General Kenneth McKenzie.
Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker participated in the hearing.
“We actually learned a lot today. I was able to ask not only the Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff but the Secretary of Defense what all of the reversals President Biden was guilty of and what he had done to our international credibility,” Wicker said.
Wicker called out comments from Secretary Austin that U.S. credibility had not been damaged as a result of the Afghanistan withdrawal.
Senator Wicker stated that Secretary Austin “somehow was able to say with a straight face to the cameras and to the members of the committee that we still had a very very strong international reputation and credibility had not been damaged.”
Wicker said that the U.S. told interpreters, drivers, friends, and the people who had had the country’s back in Afghanistan that we would not abandon them and that is exactly what happened.
In the second round of questions to the panel, Senator Wicker pressed the senior defense officials on the rapid retraction of U.S. military support that preceded the collapse of the Afghan military. He also asked the senior defense officials whether the United States is planning to redeploy to Afghanistan.
Wicker questioned the panel on President Joe Biden’s decision to ignore conditions set by the Trump Administration for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Only an estimated 5% of Afghan troops were trained to fight without U.S. support. General McKenzie told the panel, “I think the Afghans were very weakened by that morally and spiritually.”
Wicker asked Secretary Austin about the reports in the New York Times are that he warned the President back in March that there could be dire outcomes on which the Afghan military folded in an aggressive advance by the Taliban, saying to Austin that “you drew comparisons between that and our experience in Iraq where a disaster unfolded and we were required to go back in.”
“It’s clear that I have a history with Iraq, it’s clear that I’ve learned you know there are lessons to be learned from Iraq…,” Austin said. “There are certainly some of the same kinds of things that could transpire as we look to transition.”
When Senator Wicker asked Secretary Austin if the Department of Defense had plans in place to redeploy U.S. combat troops to Afghanistan in the event that our intelligence estimates prove true and our homeland security is in fact threatened, Austin said that the President’s current decision is that the U.S. has left Afghanistan and they have not been tasked to construct any plans to back into Afghanistan.
At the end of Wicker’s remarks, he asked General Milley to correct the record on President Trump’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. Milley confirmed to Wicker that President Trump accepted the advice of his military advisers and rescinded his original order until certain conditions could be met by the Taliban.
Milley also confirmed that President Biden gave the order to withdraw from Afghanistan even though no additional conditions had been met by the Taliban from the time President Trump rescinded his original order to withdraw.
Senator Tim Cotton posted on Twitter that General Milley and General McKenzie both confirmed in today’s hearing that they recommended 2,500 U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan. Last month, President Biden claimed that he received no recommendation to leave troops in Afghanistan.
Last month, Joe Biden claimed that no military leader advised him to leave a small troop presence in Afghanistan.
Today, General Milley and General McKenzie both confirmed their recommendation that 2,500 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan.
Which is it? pic.twitter.com/3Tnw1a6V4q
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) September 28, 2021
“This president has ignored the best advice of his military advisers. And as a result, 13 of our troops are dead. Many innocent Afghans are dead. Our credibility is very much tarnished and Americans are less secure because of that,” Wicker said.