leaders face Congress over Afghan withdrawal decision | New policies


By ROBERT BURNS and LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – In their first public testimony since the United States completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, key Pentagon leaders will face acute questions in Congress over the chaotic withdrawal and rapid takeover of the country by the Taliban.

Republicans in particular have stepped up their attacks on President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by August 30, saying it makes the United States more vulnerable to terrorism. They are asking for more details on the suicide bombing in Kabul that killed 13 US servicemen in the final days of the withdrawal.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are scheduled to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday and then before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday. General Frank McKenzie, who as head of Central Command oversaw the withdrawal, will also testify.

Row Republican on the Senate Committee, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, dotted the Pentagon with a long list of questions about multiple aspects of the withdrawal, including the August 26 suicide bombing at Kabul International Airport that killed 169 Afghans in addition to US service. members. He also asks for information on the decision-making over the summer, as it became apparent that the Taliban were crushing US-backed Afghan forces.

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“We need a full account of all the factors and decisions that got us to where we are today and a real plan to defend America in the future,” Inhofe wrote in the week. last.

The withdrawal ended the longest war in U.S. history. The Biden administration and some Democrats in Congress have argued that former President Donald Trump bears some of the blame for the war that ended in a Taliban victory, since his administration signed a deal with the Taliban in 2020 which promised a complete withdrawal of the United States by May. 2021. They also highlighted the failure of the United States for years to build an Afghan army capable of standing up to the Taliban.

“It’s not a Democratic or a Republican problem. These failures manifested themselves in four presidential administrations of the two political parties, ”said Senator Jack Reed, DR.I, the day after the capture of Kabul by the Taliban on August 15.

While Tuesday’s hearing was to focus on Afghanistan, other topics will likely be covered, including Milley’s actions in the final months of Trump’s presidency.

Some in Congress have accused Milley of disloyalty for what Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s book “Peril” reported as assurances to a Chinese general that the United States had no plan to attack China, and that if they did, Milley would warn him ahead of time. In the days following reporting on the book’s reporting, Milley declined to comment in detail, instead telling reporters he would present his responses directly to Congress. His only comments were that the calls with the Chinese were routine and part of his job duties and responsibilities.

Milley and Austin have both defended the execution by the US military of a withdrawal from Afghanistan ordered by Biden in April. The withdrawal was largely completed in early July, but several hundred troops were held in Kabul, along with defensive equipment, to protect a US diplomatic presence in the capital. The State Department initially said diplomats would stay after the military withdrawal ended on August 31, but when Afghan forces collapsed and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, leaving the Taliban in control, a frantic evacuation has begun.

The Pentagon defended the execution of an airlift from Kabul airport which carried more than 120,000 people, while acknowledging that it had had a chaotic start and was under the almost constant threat of a terrorist attack .

“The avalanche of incompetence from the Biden administration has damaged our international reputation and humiliated the United States on the world stage,” wrote Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks of the Iowa, both Republicans, in the Des Moines Register. “Yet our President and Secretary of State continue to claim that the withdrawal from Afghanistan was a historic success.

Cotton and others have questioned the viability of US plans to contain al-Qaida and the Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State group using intelligence gathering means and attack jets based outside Afghanistan.

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