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Top former generals to slam Afghanistan withdrawal

Retired Gen. Mark Milley, the former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and retired Gen. Frank McKenzie, the former Central Command commander, will share their serious concerns today about how the United States withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing — kicking off at 1 p.m. — marks the first time the two high-profile retired generals will publicly testify on Capitol Hill since leaving their posts. The proceedings are expected to shine a light on the divergences in strategy within the Biden administration on the Afghanistan pullout.

Milley has publicly said he believes the U.S. embassy in Kabul should have been evacuated quicker. Milley described the fall of Kabul to the Taliban as “a strategic failure.” McKenzie has also said he has “a lot of regrets” about the pullout and has criticized the speed of evacuation of U.S. personnel.

In an opening statement, Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-Texas) will point out how President Joe Biden’s top military advisers — including Milley and McKenzie — “issued dire warnings about the withdrawal’s disastrous consequences.”

McCaul will add that his investigation has uncovered significant shortcomings in U.S. planning that led to the chaotic withdrawal in August 2021.

“The State Department’s request for an emergency evacuation was not transmitted to the DOD until August 16th – the day after the Taliban surrounded Kabul and the embassy was evacuated,” McCaul will say.

The withdrawal culminated in a suicide bombing that killed 13 U.S. service members and hundreds of Afghans.

“I will not rest until I get to the bottom of this tragedy. You deserve answers,” McCaul will say about the terrorist attack. “The American people deserve answers. And I intend to uncover them.”

McCaul’s Afghanistan oversight has taken a back seat to other more headline-grabbing House GOP probes, such as the Biden impeachment inquiry. Yet the McCaul investigation is widely seen on the Hill as the most serious of the various House GOP inquiries into Biden’s presidency.

Former President Donald Trump and the Taliban reached an agreement in February 2020 to pull U.S. combat troops out of Afghanistan by the following year if certain conditions were met.

When Biden came into office in January 2021, he was determined to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan as well, but he delayed the pullout until September. That was a full 20 years after the 9/11 attacks and the start of the American-led military campaign in the war-torn country.

At that time, Biden and senior administration officials reasoned that maintaining a military presence in the nation would continue to put troops at risk. But top U.S. officials admit the rapid Taliban takeover of the country in 2021 took them by surprise.

— Max Cohen

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