The Secretary of Defense of the United States, Lloyd Austin, acknowledged this Tuesday before Congress that the rapid collapse of Afghanistan caught the Pentagon by surprise, although he assumed miscalculations when interpreting signals such as corruption and the demoralization of the Afghan Army in the face of the advance of the Taliban, as well as the “mediocre leadership” of the Kabul government. The Republican opposition awaited this call – like that of Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, two weeks ago – to take political advantage of the hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan, which officially ended twenty years of military intervention in the Central Asian country and has left the way free to a possible reconstitution of Al Qaeda or the Islamic State (ISIS, in its English acronym), which constitutes “a real threat to the United States”, according to General Mark Milley, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who also declared in the audience.
In an appearance before the Senate Armed Services committee, which will be followed on Wednesday by another before the same instance of the House of Representatives, Austin assured that the overwhelming Taliban victory was unforeseen. “The fact that the Afghan Army that we and our allies trained and formed fell apart in many cases without firing a single shot caught us all by surprise,” said the Pentagon chief. “It would be dishonest to tell otherwise,” he stressed.
“” We must take into account an uncomfortable truth, the fact that we did not fully understand the depth of corruption and mediocre leadership in its upper ranks, nor the damaging effect of the frequent and inexplicable rotations made by the president. [Ashraf] Ghani with his commanders, “said Austin, recalling that the Doha agreement, which in February 2020 agreed to withdraw between President Donald Trump and the Taliban, had” a demoralizing effect on the Afghan soldiers. ” Austin also claimed to have no record of the large amount of money allegedly taken out of the country by Ghani in his flight.
Austin has stuck to the official discourse of the Democratic Administration, the same one that Blinken held two weeks ago: defending the withdrawal from Afghanistan and making the work of the military more expensive, which managed to evacuate 124,000 people from the country in just two weeks, at a very cost. high: the 13 US soldiers killed in a suicide attack at the Kabul airport in the final stretch of the colossal airlift implemented by the US and its allies. Austin reframed the criticism from Republicans and a handful of Democrats in mild self-criticism. “That [la evacuación] it was perfect? Of course not, ”he said, citing the case of Afghans who tried to flee by clinging to the fuselage of American planes and who died when they fell onto the runway.
But even despite the self-criticism in the session this Tuesday, the endorsement of responsibilities to the Democratic Administration resounded for ignoring the recommendations of high military commanders regarding the evacuation deadline, and for leaving many Americans behind; according to the latest count from the State Department, about a hundred. “We have all witnessed the horror of the president’s administration [Biden]”Said Republican Senator James Inhofe, quoted by Reuters.
Along with Austin, the two highest ranking officers involved in the operation have testified, General Mark Milley, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Frank McKenzie, head of the US Central Command, who since his A base in the Gulf supervised the evacuation efforts. Milley issued a serious warning about the real possibility that Afghanistan could once again become the base of terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, which could try to hit the US thanks to the support of the new Afghan authorities. The Taliban “are still a terrorist organization, which has not yet severed ties with Al Qaeda.” “We must continue to protect the United States and its population from terrorist attacks from Afghanistan. A reconstituted Al Qaeda or ISIS with aspirations to attack the US is a very real possibility, “he warned.
Milley’s warning has barely silenced the controversy that has haunted him for weeks, when the publication of excerpts from a forthcoming book attributed calls to his Chinese homologist to alert him of a hypothetical attack by the United States in the final stretch of Trump’s presidency, as well as a secret meeting with the military leadership to implement contingency plans after the assault on the Capitol in January. Milley defended his contacts with his Chinese interlocutors on Tuesday while ensuring “to be sure that Trump at no time wanted to attack China.” The controversy, fueled by political and journalistic circles in Washington, centers on the two telephone conversations that Milley had with his Chinese counterpart, one in October 2020 and another in January, before Joe Biden assumed the presidency, to reassure Beijing. and to convey to him that the United States was not going to launch any attack against China. Republicans have called for his resignation since the controversy erupted and Trump, who is tried for treason for acting “behind the president’s back.” Biden, however, has testified to his “great confidence.”
Follow all the international information at Facebook and Twitter, o en our weekly newsletter.