Milley and Austin testify before House panel on Afghanistan

Senior military officials in the Biden administration faced another congressional panel on Wednesday to answer questions from lawmakers ...


Senior military officials in the Biden administration faced another congressional panel on Wednesday to answer questions from lawmakers about the chaotic end of the war in Afghanistan, a day after a heated Senate hearing in which they acknowledged that their advice to President Biden not to withdraw all Afghan troops had gone unheeded.

Gen. Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appeared before the House Armed Services Committee with Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the head of the Central Command of the ‘army. They are expected to receive similar questions about talks they had with the president ahead of a chaotic evacuation last month in which 13 U.S. servicemen died in a suicide bombing and 10 Afghan civilians were killed in a U.S. drone strike. .

Indeed, partisan contests were evident in the opening remarks of major lawmakers. “The president made the right call” to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, said Representative Adam Smith, Democrat of Washington and chairman of the committee, who also noted that the evacuation was “rushed”.

Alabama Rep. Mike D. Rogers, the panel’s top Republican, sharply criticized the administration’s handling of the final pullout: “After this debacle, I think no one can trust what is said this president about Afghanistan.

In an at times acrimonious Senate hearing on Tuesday, General Milley said military leaders gave Biden their advice before the president April decision to step down. These views, the general said, had not changed since November, when he recommended that President Donald J. Trump keep US troops in Afghanistan.

But, added the general, “policymakers are not required in any way to follow this advice.”

General Milley also defended his actions during the tumultuous last months of the Trump administration on Wednesday, insisting that the calls to his Chinese counterpart and a meeting in which he asked the generals to alert him if The president was attempting to launch a nuclear weapon were part of his duties as the country’s top military officer.

Several Republican senators berated General Milley, both for his actions and described in the book “Peril” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of the Washington Post, and for telling the perpetrators about these actions.

General Milley said he was instructed by Mark T. Esper, the then Defense Secretary, to call his Chinese counterpart on October 30 because there was “information that led us to believe that the Chinese were worried about an attack on them by the United States. States. ”He added that other senior US officials, including Mike Pompeo, then Secretary of State, were aware of the calls.

“I know, I’m sure President Trump did not intend to attack the Chinese, and it was my direct responsibility by the secretary to convey that intention to the Chinese,” he said. “My task at the time was to defuse. My message was once again consistent: stay calm, steady and defuse yourself. “

The senators asked the three men why the Pentagon did not predict the rapid collapse of the Afghan government and the Afghan army, why the United States did not start evacuating vulnerable Americans and Afghans sooner, and what the Pentagon was doing now to help the remaining Americans and Afghans who wanted to leave the country.

Mr Austin, a retired four-star army general who served in Afghanistan, admitted that the collapse of the Afghan army in the final weeks of the war – in many cases without the Taliban failing fire – had surprised the high commanders.

“We didn’t fully understand that there weren’t many things that – and for whom – many Afghan forces would be fighting,” Austin said.

Democrats, like Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, have asked if leaving the troops in Afghanistan for another year would have made a difference. Mr. Austin said no.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Milley and Austin testify before House panel on Afghanistan
Milley and Austin testify before House panel on Afghanistan
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