Defense Secretary Austin admitted that the US government may have invested too much time in trying to “forge” a nation with fully functioning institutions.
Washington’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan and its results have damaged US credibility around the world, the top US military officer said Tuesday.
Separately, the Pentagon chief said the Doha Agreement, which was brokered by the US, between the Taliban and Afghanistan’s government had a “demoralizing effect” on Afghan soldiers.
Testifying in front of a Senate committee, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Central Command chief Gen. Frank McKenzie defended the US withdrawal and evacuation process from Afghanistan.
“It was the largest airlift conducted in US history, and it was executed in just 17 days,” Austin said in his opening remarks. “Was it perfect? Of course not. We moved so many people so quickly out of Kabul that we ran into capacity and screening problems at intermediate staging bases outside of Afghanistan,” the defense secretary added.
Austin also admitted that the US government may have invested too much time in trying to “forge” a nation with fully functioning institutions.
“We helped build a state, but we could not forge a nation,” Austin said. “The fact that the Afghan army we and our partners trained simply melted away, in many cases without firing a shot, took us all by surprise. It would be dishonest to claim otherwise.”
US credibility damaged: Milley
Milley also took a direct jab at the Afghan army and forces. “I don’t want to say negative things about these guys … and many of them did fight to the very end. But the vast majority put their weapons down and melted away in a very, very short period of time. I think that has to do with will and leadership,” he said.
Asked about US credibility following the withdrawal, Milley said, “damaged is one word that could be used” to describe Washington’s standing around the world.
‘We said 2,500 troops should remain; Biden heard’
Milley also said he was of the view that President Joe Biden needed to keep 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan. “I’m confident that the President heard all the recommendations,” he said when asked why the president ignored the advice of military generals. McKenzie also said he agreed with the recommendation to keep a certain number of troops in the country.
Biden has previously said in public interviews that “no one” voiced such a recommendation “that I can recall.” But Austin said that the president heard these recommendations.
Taliban are terrorists
The Taliban is a terrorist organization and it has not broken ties with al-Qaeda, Milley said.
And al-Qaeda continues to be a threat to the US and could try to attack America as soon as 12 months from now, he added.
“The Taliban has never renounced al-Qaeda or broken affiliation with them,” Milley said.