Tuesday, November 30

Afghanistan’s withdrawal from the United States is a “logistical success but a strategic failure,” says Milley | United States Military


The withdrawal from Afghanistan and the evacuation of Kabul was “a logistical success but a strategic failure,” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Senate.

General Mark Milley gave the harsh assessment at a Senate Armed Services Committee extraordinary hearing to examine America’s exit, which also became an autopsy of the 20-year war that preceded it.

Milley appeared alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and US Central Command Chief Gen. Kenneth ‘Frank’ McKenzie in the most intense and heated interrogation of the nation’s military leadership in more than a decade.

At one point, Milley was forced to defend his loyalty to his country, in the face of accusations of insubordination in the last weeks of the Trump administration, and to explain why he had not resigned in the course of the chaotic Afghan withdrawal.

“It is obvious that the war in Afghanistan did not end on the terms we wanted,” Milley said, noting that “the Taliban are now in power in Kabul.”

“We must remember that the Taliban were and continue to be a terrorist organization and have not yet severed ties with al-Qaida,” he added. “I have no illusions who we are dealing with. It remains to be seen whether or not the Taliban can consolidate power, or whether the country will fracture further in a civil war. “

It was a long and very difficult day in Congress for the Biden administration, which has been trying to overcome the reputational damage caused by the sudden fall of Kabul last month and the subsequent struggle to evacuate Americans and allies, which left tens of thousands of vulnerable people. Afghans behind.

Milley, Austin and McKenzie confirmed that when the Biden administration was considering its policy on Afghanistan in its first months in office, they had believed that a small American force of about 2,500 should remain.

No one could explain Joe Biden’s claim in an interview last month that he had received no such advice.

“No one told me that that I can remember,” Biden told ABC News August 19.

Milley flatly rejected a suggestion by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton that he should resign because that advice was rejected.

“It would be an incredible act of political defiance for a commissioned officer to simply resign because my advice was not taken,” he said, looking directly at Cotton. “This country does not want the generals to find out what orders we are going to accept and do or not. That is not our job. “

In his August 19 interview, Biden had said that US forces would stay until all US citizens had been evacuated. But when the last soldier took off on a flight on August 30, it was still believed that there were more than 100 Americans, most, if not all, with dual citizenship, who had delayed their decision to leave until it was too late.

Milley said it was the advice of military leaders to stick to the late August deadline to complete the exit, which the Taliban had agreed to.

If the United States had stayed until September to try to evacuate more people, he said, “We would have been at war with the Taliban again,” requiring an additional 20,000 soldiers to clear Kabul of Taliban fighters and retake the Bagram air base near the capital. , which the United States had abandoned in July.

Milley also had to defend himself against charges that he deliberately sought to undermine Donald Trump’s authority as commander-in-chief for fear that the former president would launch a war abroad as a distraction to divert attention from his electoral defeat in November.

“My allegiance to this nation, its people and the constitution has not changed and will never change,” Milley told the Senate armed services committee on Tuesday. “As long as I have a break to give, my loyalty is absolute.”

Milley was facing hostile Republicans, some of whom have demanded his resignation following revelations that he spoke twice to his Chinese counterpart, assuring him that the United States would not launch a surprise attack.

The revelations are contained in a new book, Danger, by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.

According to the book, Milley also ordered officers assigned to the Pentagon war room to inform him if Trump ordered a nuclear launch, even though the chairman of the joint chiefs is not in the chain of command.

The general said his two calls with the Chinese army chief followed intelligence that suggested China feared an attack and intended to defuse tensions.

“I’m sure President Trump had no intention of attacking the Chinese,” Milley said, adding that the defense secretary had instructed him to convey that message to the Chinese.

“My task at the time was to reduce tension,” he said. “My message was consistent again: keep calm, firm and calm. We are not going to attack you. “

He said the calls were closely coordinated with the defense secretary and other senior Trump administration officials, and that several senior Pentagon officials attended the calls.

On the question of his actions on nuclear launch procedures, Milley said he had a responsibility to insert himself into those procedures in order to play his role of properly advising the president.

“By law, I’m not in the chain of command and I know it,” he said. “However, by presidential directive, and [defence department] instruction, I am in the chain of communication to fulfill my statutory legal role as the president’s chief military adviser. “


www.theguardian.com

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