Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin says the United States needs to consider “uncomfortable truths” in its assessment of the Afghanistan withdrawal.
During his testimony before the Senate Armed Service Committee on Tuesday, Austin acknowledged the United States failed to see that there was only so much the Afghan forces would fight for.
He asked, “Did we have the right strategy? Did we have too many strategies? Did we put too much faith in our ability to build effective Afghan institutions? An army, an air force, the police force, and government ministries? We helped build a state… but we could not forge a nation.”
Austin argued the fact that the Afghan Army “melted away” took them by surprise.
He continued, “We need to consider some uncomfortable truths. We didn’t fully comprehend the depth of corruption and poor leadership in the senior ranks. That we didn’t grasp the damaging effect of frequent and unexplained rotations by President Ghani of his commanders.”
Additionally, Austin claimed they did not “anticipate the snowball effect caused by the deals that the Taliban commander struck with local leaders in the wake of the Doha agreement. And that the Doha agreement itself had a demoralizing effect on Afghan soldiers. And finally, that we failed to grasp that there was only so much for which, and for whom, many of the Afghan forces would fight.”
Watch part of Lloyd’s testimony below:
"We need to consider some uncomfortable truths": Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says the U.S. "didn't fully comprehend the depth of corruption and poor leadership" in Afghanistan's senior ranks and the U.S. exit deal with the Taliban "had a demoralizing effect on Afghan soldiers" pic.twitter.com/6iCOteWRWK
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 28, 2021
Austin recently received criticism from the fallout of the Afghanistan withdrawal. Close to 90 retired generals and admirals called for the resignations of Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley.
“The hasty retreat has left an unknown number of Americans stranded in dangerous areas controlled by a brutal enemy along with Afghans who supported American forces,” the letter stated.
They group also said Austin and Milley “were the two top military officials in a position to recommend against the dangerous withdrawal in the strongest possible terms.”
Gen. Frank McKenzie, the overall commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, claimed on Tuesday he recommended “we maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan. And I also recommended earlier in the fall of 2020 that we maintain 4,500 at that time. Those were my personal views.”
He also has “a view that the withdrawal of those forces would lead inevitably to the collapse of the Afghan military forces and eventually the Afghan government.”
ABC News’ George Stephanopolous asked Biden about reports of being told to keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, as IJR reported.
“No. No one said that to me that I can recall,” Biden said.
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