© Reuters. SUBMIT PICTURE: U.S. Marines honor their fallen service members eliminated in action throughout a ramp event at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 27, 2021. Picture taken August 27, 2021. U.S. Central Command/Handout by means of REUTERS
By Phil Stewart and Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin informed Congress on Tuesday that the Afghan army’s unexpected collapse captured the Pentagon off-guard as he acknowledged mistakes in America’s longest war consisting of corruption and harmed spirits in Afghan ranks.
“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,” Austin informed the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“It would be dishonest to claim otherwise.”
Austin was speaking at the start of 2 days of what are anticipated to be a few of the most controversial hearings in memory over the disorderly end to the war in Afghanistan, which cost the lives of U.S. soldiers and civilians and left the Taliban back in power.
The Senate and House committees supervising the U.S. armed force are holding hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, and Republicans are wanting to absolutely no in on what they view as errors that President Joe Biden’s administration made towards completion of the two-decade-old war.
The hearings follow comparable questioning 2 weeks ago that saw U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken staunchly safeguarding the administration, even as he dealt with require his resignation.
Biden has actually dealt with the most significant crisis of his presidency over the significant loss of the war in Afghanistan and America’s handling of its struggling withdrawal, raising concerns about his judgment and diplomacy proficiency.
Senator James Inhofe, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s leading Republican, directly blamed the Biden administration. Inhofe stated Biden disregarded the suggestions of his military leaders and left numerous Americans behind after the U.S. withdrawal.
“We all witnessed the horror of the president’s own making,” Inhofe stated.
Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, affirmed that he did not expect the speed of the Taliban takeover. But he kept in mind the armed force’s cautions because late 2020 that a sped up withdrawal – without being connected to any conditions – might speed up the collapse of the Afghan military and federal government.
“That was a year ago. My assessment remained consistent throughout,” Milley stated.
DRONE STRIKE, SUICIDE BATTLE
Austin applauded American workers who assisted airlift 124,000 Afghans out of the nation, an operation that likewise cost the lives of 13 U.S. soldiers and ratings of Afghans in a suicide battle outside the Kabul airport.
“Was it perfect? Of course not,” Austin stated, keeping in mind the desperate Afghans who passed away attempting to climb up the side of a U.S. military airplane and the civilians eliminated in the last U.S. drone strike of the war.
Milley stated the Taliban “remains a terrorist organization” which has not damaged ties with al Qaeda. He cautioned that a reconstituted al Qaeda in Afghanistan with goals to assault the United States was “a very real possibility” – possibly in just a year.
That caution is most likely to agitate Republican legislators, who are hesitant of the Pentagon’s capability keep an eye on al Qaeda and Islamic State hazards, and act rapidly on any details it gets.
However, Austin safeguarded the Biden administration’s strategies to deal with future counter-terrorism hazards from groups like al Qaeda and Islamic State by flying in drones or task forces from abroad.
“Over-the-horizon operations are difficult but absolutely possible. And the intelligence that supports them comes from a variety of sources, not just U.S. boots on the ground,” Austin stated.