United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Mark Milley, appearing before Congress on Tuesday, acknowledged a series of failures that led to the chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. “It is clear and obvious that the war in Afghanistan did not end on the terms we wanted with the Taliban now in power in Kabul,” General Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committee, warning that Afghanistan today appears headed towards civil war.
In his first congressional testimony, the top US military officer said the government should have kept thousands of US soldiers in Afghanistan in order to keep track of the real-time movement of the Talibani group. Milley, however, refused to answer a question on what advice he had given US President Joe Biden regarding the withdrawal of all troops from the war-torn country. When asked about his personal opinion about keeping the American soldiers in Afghanistan, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at least 2,500 soldiers were needed to safeguard the country from the extremist group. The nation’s top military officials — Milley, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and CENTCOM Commander Kenneth McKenzie — faced tough questioning, insults and calls for their resignation from Congress in their first appearance before lawmakers since the withdrawal. Milley cited “a very real possibility” that al-Qaida or the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate could reconstitute in Afghanistan under Taliban rule and present a terrorist threat to the United States in the next 12 to 36 months. It was al-Qaida’s use of Afghanistan as a base from which to plan and execute its attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, that triggered the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan a month later.