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Top General Blames Biden Admin for Botched US Withdrawal From Afghanistan

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Top General Blames Biden Admin for Botched US Withdrawal From Afghanistan

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A top general told Congress Tuesday the Biden Administration is to blame for the deadly chaos that resulted from the sudden U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In August 2021, the botched U.S. pullout left thousands of Afghans and Americans desperate to flee the Taliban, seeking to escape on U.S. military flights. The military was able to rescue nearly 130,000 civilians before the final flight out of the country, but an unknown number of Americans and Afghans were left behind.

Thirteen U.S. service members were killed in a suicide bombing as they provided security at Kabul airport’s Abbey Gate during the hasty exit, as the Taliban took over Afghanistan.

Retired Gen. Mark Milley, former Joint Chiefs chairman, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee the State Department waited too long to order the evacuation and chaos was the result. 

“At the end of 20 years, we the military helped build an army, a state, but we could not forge a nation. The enemy occupied Kabul, the overthrow of the government occurred and the military we supported for two decades faded away. That is a strategic failure,” Milley opened his testimony. 

Retired Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, former commander of U.S. Central Command, said that “the events of mid- and late August 2021 were the direct result of delaying the initiation of the NEO (evacuation) for several months, in fact, until we were in extremis, and the Taliban had overrun the country.”

McKenzie explained that the decision to begin evacuating lay with the State Department, not the Department of Defense. 

“Despite this, we had begun positioning forces in the region as early as nine July, but we could do nothing,” he added. 

Milley reiterated McKenzie’s point saying, “I think the call to execute the NEO came too late. And as General McKenzie mentioned, it was officially logged in on the 14th. At that point in time, the Afghan government senior leadership was preparing to depart, and they departed the next day on the 15th. The thousands of Afghan civilians are gathering at the airport. The Afghan security forces were collapsing in the various provincial capitals.” 

“The fundamental mistake, the fundamental flaw was the timing of the State Department,” he added. “That was too slow and too late.”

Gen. Milley also testified that the administration did not approve a request for more troops.

The National Security Council defended the Biden Administration in a statement Tuesday saying Biden’s decision was the right thing to do and part of his commitment to get the U.S. out of America’s longest war, the Associated Press reports.

The president “was not going to send another generation of troops to fight and die in a conflict that had no end in sight,” the NSC said. “We have also demonstrated that we do not need a permanent troop presence on the ground in harm’s way to remain vigilant against terrorism threats.”

Another point of conflict during the hearing occurred when GOP congressmen pressed Milley about the previous testimony of Marine Sgt. Tyler Vargas-Andrews, ABC News reports.

Vargas-Andrews claims he saw a man matching the description of an Abbey Gate suicide bomber before the deadly explosion on Aug. 26, but the Marine said he was not permitted to engage and prevent the blast.

Vargas-Andrews lost both of his limbs as a result and was present at Tuesday’s hearing. 

McKenzie said he was not aware of a “BOLO” or “be on the lookout” alert given to troops at the time.

Rep. Cory Mills (R-FL) accused McKenzie of calling the Marine’s integrity into question, asking the retired general, “Do you want to face him and tell him that before him now?”

“I don’t want to face him and tell him that. I want to say that the battlefield is a very complex place. There were a lot of threats that were floating around out there that day. I honor his service. I regret he was injured,” McKenzie responded.

“Obviously, something broke down. If Sgt. Vargas had a positive ID on a known enemy target, that enemy target was hostile act or hostile intent, the rules of engagement allowed it,” he added.

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