Protection Minister admits Afghan military collapse “stunned us all”
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (C) Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley (L) and Commander of US Central Command Gen. Kenneth McKenzie (R) testify during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building Jan. September 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
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WASHINGTON – The Pentagon recognized Tuesday that the breathtaking collapse of the Afghan army amid a rapid Taliban advance contributed to the Biden government’s chaotic exodus from the war-weary country.
“The fact that the Afghan army that we and our partners trained simply melted away, in many cases without firing a shot, surprised us all,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the Senate Armed Forces Committee.
“It would be dishonest to say otherwise,” added Austin, a veteran of the Middle Eastern wars.
US Army Chief of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley said that many of the Afghan troops trained by the US and NATO coalitions tried to assert their positions against the Taliban, but the majority did not.
“Many units fought at the very end, but the vast majority laid down their arms and melted away in a very, very short time,” said Milley. “I think it has to do with will and leadership, but I think we still have to try to figure out exactly why that was,” he added.
“It’s clear, it’s obvious. The war in Afghanistan didn’t end on the terms we wanted. The Taliban, now in power in Kabul,” said Milley.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley speaks during a Senate Armed Forces Committee hearing on the completion of military operations in Afghanistan and plans for future counterterrorism operations on Capitol Hill September 28, 2021 in Washington, DC .
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Both Austin and Milley fended off legislature criticism that the whopping 17-day humanitarian evacuation of the US military from Afghanistan was overall unsuccessful.
Austin said the U.S. military managed to move more than 7,000 people a day.
“We flew more than 387 missions on military aircraft alone, an average of almost 23 per day. At the height of this operation, one aircraft took off every 45 minutes,” he said, adding that “not a single mission was missed for maintenance.” , Fuel or logistical problems. “
“Was it perfect? Of course not, ”said Austin.
“We evacuated so many people from Kabul so quickly that we ran into capacity and screening problems in the intermediate stops outside Afghanistan. The ministry is also trying to evacuate Afghan allies who are participating in the special immigrant visa program.
When asked about the continuing impact on NATO allies in the wake of a hasty evacuation, Milley told lawmakers that the US’s credibility was being “scrutinized” by allies and opponents. Austin added that American credibility “remains firm,” citing his interactions with US allies since the withdrawal.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a Senate Armed Forces Committee hearing on the completion of military operations in Afghanistan and plans for future counterterrorism operations on Capitol Hill Jan.
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When asked how many US citizens remained in Afghanistan, Austin, Milley, and the Marine Corps General of US Central Command referred Frank McKenzie to the State Department.
Earlier this month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told lawmakers that fewer than 100 US citizens seeking evacuation would remain in Afghanistan.
On the instructions of President Joe Biden, the US military mission in Afghanistan ended on August 31, after around 125,000 people were evacuated from the country. Of these, approximately 6,000 were US citizens and their families.
The US began its war in Afghanistan in October 2001, weeks after the 9/11 attacks. Back then, the Taliban offered refuge to al-Qaeda, the group that launched the devastating terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Since then, around 2,500 US soldiers have died in the conflict, which also killed more than 100,000 Afghan soldiers, police officers and civilians.
After 20 years of investment, four US presidents and twelve defense ministers, the Taliban are back in power.
In the final weeks of a planned exodus of foreign troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban achieved a number of shocking successes on the battlefield. On August 15, the group captured the presidential palace in Kabul, prompting Western governments to speed up the evacuation of vulnerable Afghan nationals, diplomats and civilians.
After the Taliban takeover, Biden defended his decision that the US would leave the war-torn country.
“I am fully behind my decision. After 20 years I have learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw the US armed forces,” said Biden a day after the Taliban collapsed Afghanistan.
“American troops cannot and should not fight in a war and die in a war that the Afghan armed forces are unwilling to wage for themselves,” Biden said. “We gave them every chance to determine their own future. We couldn’t give them the will to fight for this future.”
Biden ordered thousands of US soldiers to be sent to Kabul to help with the colossal humanitarian airlift and secure the area around the airport.
In the last week of evacuation efforts, ISIS-K terrorists killed 13 US soldiers and dozens of Afghans in an attack outside the airport. US forces hit back and launched strikes to thwart other attacks.