Pentagon leaders to be Held Accountable in US Congress for their Chaotic Withdrawal in Afghanistan
September 28, 2021
President Joe Biden’s top military leaders are expected to face some of the most tumultuous hearings in recent memory over the shambolic end to the Afghan war, which claimed the lives of US troops and civilians while restoring Taliban rule.The senate and house committees in charge of the US military will hold hearings, with Republicans hoping to focus on mistakes made by Biden’s administration near the end of the two-decade-long war.Following similar questioning two weeks ago, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stood firm in his defense of the administration, despite calls for his resignation.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to praise American troops for assisting in the airlift of 124,000 Afghans out of the country, an operation that claimed the lives of 13 US troops and dozens of Afghans in a suicide bombing near Kabul’s airport.According to Reuters, Austin is expected to be forthright about the things we could have done better.That will almost certainly include the US military’s final drone strike before withdrawing, which the Pentagon admits killed ten civilians, the majority of whom were children — and not members of the militant Islamic State (IS) group it was supposed to be attacking.
Senator James Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote to Austin ahead of the hearing, requesting information on the August 26 airport bombing, equipment left behind, and the administration’s future counter-terrorism plans.Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, said lawmakers would press the administration on a lack of coordination and a real plan for how we were going to get all the Afghans who helped us out of the country.I’m not sure if we’ll get any answers. However, questions about how we got to this point in Afghanistan will be raised again.The two senior US military commanders testifying, Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Marine General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, may face many of the toughest questions.McKenzie called the drone strike a “tragic mistake,” and critics say it raises serious doubts about America’s ability to properly identify counter-terrorism targets in Afghanistan after the US pulls out.However, McKenzie and other US officials will be pressed to defend the Biden administration’s plans to fly in drones or commandos from other countries to deal with future counter-terrorism threats from groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS.
The Biden administration has been accused by Republicans of downplaying the risks associated with the so-called “over the horizon” capability.Separately, Milley could be questioned extensively over an account in a new book alleging that he bypassed civilian leaders to make secret calls to his Chinese counterpart over concerns about former President Donald Trump. Milley’s office disputed the book’s report, claiming that the calls he made were coordinated across the Pentagon and the US government.