Defense Secretary Austin admits the US ‘failed to grasp’ how quickly Afghanistan would fall to the Taliban and blames local soldiers for ‘simply melting away’ and refusing to fight
- Department of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuesday said the Biden administration ‘failed to grasp’ how quickly the country would fall to the Taliban
- He was speaking during a Capitol Hill hearing on the Afghanistan withdrawal
- Said: ‘The fact that the Afghan Army that we and our partners trained simply melted away, in many cases without firing a shot, took all of us by surprise’
Lloyd Austin said Afghanistan’s fighters are to blame for disappearing when the Taliban took over, saying the Biden administration ‘failed to grasp’ how quickly the Islamic militant group would overcome the Afghan government and military.
‘The fact that the Afghan Army that we and our partners trained simply melted away, in many cases without firing a shot, took all of us by surprise – and it would be dishonest to claim otherwise,’ the Defense secretary said during a hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
‘Did we have the right strategy? Did we have too many strategies? Did we put too much faith in our ability to build effective Afghan institutions – an army, an air force, a police force and government ministries?’ Lloyd questioned in his opening statement.
He added: ‘We helped build a state, Mr. Chairman, but we could not forge a nation.’
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley and Austin appeared at a hearing before the Senate Armed Service Committee Tuesday focused on the events surrounding the bungled troops withdrawal from Afghanistan last month.
Department of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuesday during a Capitol Hill hearing on the Afghanistan withdrawal that the Biden administration ‘failed to grasp’ how quickly the country would fall to the Taliban
Austin maintained that keeping a presence in Afghanistan into September would have ‘greatly imperiled our people and our mission’ after Biden set a deadline of August 31.
‘The Taliban made clear that their cooperation would end on September 1 – and, as you know, we face grave and growing threats from ISIS-K,’ Austin said on Tuesday.
‘Staying longer than we did would have made it more dangerous for our people and would not have significantly changed the number of evacuees we could have got out,’ he continued.
Austin defended the Biden administration’s decision to pull out and their handling of the situation, insead blaming the Afghan military and former President Ashraf Ghani for their failures to keep the Taliban from taking over.
He then said Biden’s leaders at the Pentagon now ‘need to consider some uncomfortable truths’ related to the 20-year mission in Afghanistan.
‘We didn’t fully comprehend the depth of corruption and poor leadership in the senior ranks,’ Austin explained. ‘That we didn’t grasp the damaging effect of frequent and unexplained rotations by President Ghani of his commanders. That we didn’t anticipate the snowball effect caused by the deals that the Taliban commander struck with local leaders in the wake of Doha agreement. And that the Doha agreement itself had a demoralizing effect on Afghan soldiers.’
Austin also said Defense officials would be lying if they said they weren’t ‘surprised’ that the Afghan military they helped build ‘simply melted away, in many cases without firing a shot’. Above: Taliban fighters patrol Kabul on Tuesday
‘And finally, that we failed to grasp that there was only so much for which, and for whom, many of the Afghan forces would fight,’ he concluded.
Biden’s handling of the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan was widely criticized by Democrats and Republicans.
In the midst of the chaos of those trying to evacuate from the Kabul last month, 13 U.S. service members were killed in an ISIS-K suicide bombing near the airport, which is where the evacuation flights were departing.
After the last troop stepped foot off of Afghan soil, news began emerging that hundreds of U.S. citizens and their families – and potentially thousands of Afghan allies – were left behind.
U.S. officials say they are still aware of around 100 American citizens and legal permanent residents who are stranded in Afghanistan and ready to evacuate nearly a month after the withdrawal.
A senior State Department official told reporters that work continued to rescue them.
Veteran-led groups leading private rescue efforts for Americans and Afghan allies question the State Department figures, claiming they believe many more than 100 U.S. citizens have been left behind – more like 400-500.