ANBOUND's Observation: General Milley Testified at Senate Hearing on Afghanistan
On September 28, General Mark Milley,
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before Senate Armed Services Committee
on controversial incidents such as the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan
and leaking classified information to China. Also present to testify were
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and General Kenneth McKenzie of the U.S.
General Milley attempted to defend
himself at the beginning. Throughout the session, it was clear there was the
division of two camps. The Democratic Party tried its best to defend President Joe
Biden, and at the same time to defend General Milley and Secretary Austin. In
contrast, the Republican Party focused on certain issues that caused General
Milley and Secretary Austin appeared to be very passive. Both General Milley and
Secretary Austin attributed the responsibility for some issues to Secretary of
State Antony Blinken.
A senator asked how much the U.S.
military learned from what happened before in Vietnam, and now in Afghanistan. General
Milley replied that there were indeed lessons to learn, and it was difficult to
conduct intelligence surveillance. He indicated that the U.S. military cannot Americanize
wars in other countries. This of course, does not make sense, because unless
the U.S. military never fights in other countries, there must be the issue of “Americanizing”
wars in other countries.
A Republican senator asked whether
President Biden took the military or diplomatic conditions into consideration
when making decisions. Secretary Austin actually replied that President Biden “did
not see any progress being made, and there was really not much of a bright
future for that process”. He said that once President Biden made the decision
to withdraw, then that was the decision to leave. Another Democratic senator
said that “the decision to leave Afghanistan was made by President Trump”, and
whether General Milley offered the same objection at that time. General Milley
refused to answer this question, but he made it clear that his opinion has not
changed. Another senator directly hit back at the Democratic senator, saying
that President Biden opposed many Trump agreements, including the restoration
of the Iran nuclear agreement. If President Biden wanted to, he can completely
overturn all Trump agreements, hence the military evacuation has nothing to do
Another senator asked if Al-Qaeda has gone
from Afghanistan, to this General Milley replied that he believes Al-Qaeda is still
in Afghanistan. The senator said that then President Biden was being “dishonest”
as he said earlier there was no more Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Another senator
asked if General Milley would use the term “extraordinary success” for what had
taken place in August in Afghanistan, and to this he responded “it was a
logistical success, but a strategic failure”.
Democratic Senator Manchin mentioned U.S.
military retreat from Saigon in Vietnam and now he saw the defeat in
Afghanistan, which he thinks is worse than U.S.’ defeat in Vietnam, an opinion confirmed
by ANBOUND. He then asked what lessons has the U.S. learned? General Milley
replied that there are issues related to intelligence and misjudgments, all of
which require a comprehensive assessment.
Another senator asked, “when in the
history of this country, have we ever had the U.S. military say and have a plan
that we will take our military out first before we take our civilians?”
Secretary’s Austin responded that “the plan was to leave the embassy there, to
continue to address the needs of our American citizens, to engage with the
Senator Hawley summarized the session that
first of all, the President of the United States lied to the American people,
and secondly the State Department, and maybe the White House, appeared to have
pushed back the evacuation to such a time that it became a catastrophe. On the
question of the failure to prevent the ISIS-K suicide bomber, Secretary Austin
said one of his departments in defense “is working to try to find ways to
propose ways to truncate the process or come up with alternative means”. ANBOUND
has previously noted it was extraordinary for such an attack to be successful. A
senator remarked that the situation made “American allies are in disbelief, but
American enemies are delighted”.
During the entire session, General
McKenzie was present as well. He did not answer much questions, but his
demeanor was calmer.
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