Military Generals Weigh in on Afghanistan and Taliban

At a Congressional hearing today, there was criticism of Joe Biden's decision to withdraw from Afghanistan.

Among the comments: Fear-Mongering:

Gen. Milley: "We must remember that the Taliban was and remains a terrorist organization and they still have not broken ties with Al-Qaeda...A reconstituted Al-Qaeda or ISIS with aspirations to attack the United States is a very real possibility."


The Taliban has never been about attacking other countries, let alone the United States. It wants to control its own country and establish its version of Sharia law. It is enemies with ISIS-KP. Al Qaeda is its own entity, and while the Taliban may play nice with them, their agendas are different. The Taliban is not out for revenge but it will fight to protect its new government -- there, not here. As for whether they will allow al-Qaeda to rebuild training camps within its borders, that would happen with or without the Taliban. There are always going to be minor militant groups in Afghanistan.

The problem for Biden is that he has gone on record with ABC News among others and said he has no recollection of his military advisors disagreeing with his plan to withdraw troops from Afganistan:

In an interview with ABC News during the withdrawal, Biden maintained that he had no recollection that his military advisers had called for keeping troops in Afghanistan:

...GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: They didn’t tell you that they wanted troops to stay?
BIDEN: No. Not at — not in terms of whether we were going to get out in a time frame all troops. They didn’t argue against that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So your military advisers did not tell you, “No, we should just keep 2,500 troops. It’s been a stable situation for the last several years. We can do that. We can continue to do that?"
BIDEN: No. No one said that to me that I can recall. (my emphasis)

Also testifying were Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., the head of the military’s Central Command.

Both men, along with General Milley, were said to have advised Mr. Biden not to withdraw all troops. During the hearing, Generals Milley and McKenzie confirmed that.

As to why the military failed to anticipate the strike by ISIS at the Kabul Airport that killed 13 U.S. servicepersons:

“We need to consider some uncomfortable truths: that we did not fully comprehend the depth of corruption and poor leadership in their senior ranks, that we didn’t grasp the damaging effect of frequent and unexplained rotations by President Ghani of his commanders, that we did not anticipate the snowball effect caused by the deals that the Taliban commanders struck with local leaders,” Mr. Austin said, referring to Ashraf Ghani, the former president of Afghanistan who fled the country as the Taliban took control.

“We failed to fully grasp that there was only so much for which — and for whom — many of the Afghan forces would fight,” Mr. Austin said.

On Gen. Milley's phone call to China before the elections, he testified:

He [Milley] said he made an Oct. 30 call to his Chinese counterpart, just before the November presidential elections, because there was “intelligence which caused us to believe the Chinese were worried about an attack on them by the United States.” He added that senior U.S. officials, including Mark Esper, the secretary of defense at the time, and Mike Pompeo, then the secretary of state, were aware of the calls.

Austin defended Biden's decision to close Bagram:

“Retaining Bagram would have required putting as many as 5,000 U.S. troops in harm’s way, just to operate and defend it,” Mr. Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee in the first of two days of congressional hearings on Afghanistan. “And it would have contributed little to the mission that we had been assigned: that was to protect and defend our embassy some 30 miles away.”

That is a no-brainer. Bagram created terrorists and hatred of the US by its deplorable conditions and treatment of detainees.

Milley did acknowledge the danger in keeping troops in Afghanistan past September 1, the deadline set by the Taliban:

“On the 1st of September we were going to go back to war again with the Taliban,” he said. “That would have resulted in significant casualties on the U.S. side and would have put American citizens still on the ground there at significant risk.”

So why did he tell Biden he thought the U.S. should keep some troops there after that date?

Donald Trump was also criticized for his Doha deal with the Taliban in 2020.

Both Austin and Milley cast the deal as largely a failure, particularly when the Afghan military — which the United States had tried to prop up for 20 years — quickly collapsed and allowed the Taliban to take control. “We need to consider some uncomfortable truths … [including] that the Doha agreement itself had a demoralizing effect on Afghan soldiers,” Austin said.

Again, as to ISIS-KP using Afghanistan as a launchpad for external attacks, I don't think it's affected by U.S. withdrawal. ISIS-KP has been training and carrying out small attacks against the Taliban and the U.S. in Afghanistan since its formation in 2016.

ISIS is also creating havoc within Africa and Southeast Asia. Anyone who thought ISIS was crushed forever was fooling themselves. It just went underground. Every week its newsletter in Arabic publishes the latest strikes the group has made. Today they issued a special announcement that they killed three and wounded two in an attack against the Taliban in Kunar. The Wall St Journal reported more attacks by ISIS-KP against the Taliban this week. (free link).

The decision to leave Afganistan was the correct one. I just wish it had been made years earlier, or better yet, that we had never gone there in the first place.

< 2021 Emmys -- Scaled Down | Thursday Open Thread >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Biden deserves credit for leaving (5.00 / 5) (#2)
    by CaptHowdy on Tue Sep 28, 2021 at 04:49:42 PM EST
    Something the last 3 presidents have said we should do but couldn't do.

    Agreed. (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Wed Sep 29, 2021 at 03:25:40 PM EST
    "Today, America can regain the sense of pride that existed before Vietnam. But it cannot be achieved by refighting a war that is finished, as far as America is concerned. As I see it, the time has come to look forward to an agenda for the future, to unify, to bind up the Nation's wounds, and to restore its health and its optimistic self-confidence."
    - President Gerald R. Ford, Remarks at Tulane University (April 23, 1975)

    Likewise, President Ford took a lot of heat and criticism from the GOP Right when he pulled the plug on South Vietnam in 1975, after a nearly 16-year American effort there.

    Ford's decision ultimately provoked a rather acrimonious GOP primary challenge from then-former California Gov. Ronald Reagan, who had accused Ford of "losing" South Vietnam (as though that country was ever ours to "lose" in the first place), for their party's 1976 presidential nomination.

    But it was still the right thing to do. I have no doubt that history will similarly vindicate President Biden's decision to pry the last U.S. fists loose from Afghanistan. The Republican Right has long been incredibly myopic on matters of war and peace, certainly since 1865.



    Time to move on, forget, repeat same mistake (none / 0) (#8)
    by john horse on Sun Oct 17, 2021 at 08:42:14 AM EST
    Donald from Hawaii,
    Forgive me for not sharing your optimism about the aftermath to military defeat.

    So how did our country react to our loss in Vietnam?  How did we "look forward to an agenda for the future, to unify, to bind up the Nation's wounds, and to restore its health and its optimistic self-confidence."?  A large portion of our country did it by buying into the Big Lie, or, more specifically, the Big Lie spread by right wing groups.  For example, there was the lie that there were American POWs still being held in Vietnam.   A myth was created after a decade of movies like Missing In Action, Rambo, Uncommon Valor, that the war could have been won if only our military personnel were not constrained by politicians/military brass.  For a period of time there was a reluctance to engage in military adventures (what was called "the Vietnam syndrome"), but it had all but disappeared by the time we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan.

    So based on history, I would say that its time for our country to move on, tell ourselves lies to help forget, then repeat the same mistake.


    Everyone was too afraid (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Sep 30, 2021 at 12:41:20 AM EST
    They couldn't survive the political fallout. Biden is fearless about it though.

    Agreed, (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by KeysDan on Tue Sep 28, 2021 at 08:57:59 PM EST
    the decision to leave Afghanistan was the correct one and President Biden showed determination in effecting the withdrawal. The question posed to President Biden had several components--a specific number of troops, a claim of stability, and for the past numbers of years, and that we can do it---apparently without cost.  

    The strategic failure, as General Miley stated, involved the moving target of mission, military assurances of great improvements if only another surge of troops, with the grand finale of the evacuation. An evacuation planned by the military and faithfully followed by the President, according to the Secretary of Defense in his testimony.

    I'm going to have to take back (5.00 / 3) (#5)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Sep 30, 2021 at 12:38:41 AM EST
    All my crap talk about General Milley. He did screw up with the BLM protest, and he discounted at the start of Trump's presidency the possible damage to military institutions, but certainly redemption is possible for us all.

    He looks like (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by Towanda on Sun Oct 03, 2021 at 11:22:30 AM EST
    he is carved from rock, and is interesting to watch as well as hear in these hearings.

    I have a poignant dislike of him! (none / 0) (#9)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Nov 02, 2021 at 01:57:03 PM EST
    Issues over the Army Futures Command.

    Elections matter. The entire military top shelf changed out with Trump. Reminds me of how I for so long believed the Supreme Court wasn't political, I also believed *and they still try to sell it to the masses) that selection of the next row of Generals isn't political.

    My family served and sacrificed for the success of "the woke" military. General Milley, both General Richardsons, General Murray ... they were uncomfortable with this social evolution within the military. And they parlayed that into becoming the Trump Generals.

    Their scarred fragile egos, their addiction to old style military authoritarism, is also how China just went nuclear supersonic. They are all mental and emotional dinosaurs. It is a miracle Milley realized he was destroying his own nation after the BLM protests.

    Rant Off

    So if I have anything nice to say about him he earned it.


    And he sounds impressive right now (4.00 / 2) (#10)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Nov 02, 2021 at 02:11:38 PM EST
    I admire so much how the US military forces people to learn how to be public speakers. The longer you are in the more you must speak to an audience. And Harvard Milley knows how to study for a test. He's doing his job. And perhaps his soul has experienced a change, but I saw the starter soul.

    I agree, Jeralyn (none / 0) (#1)
    by Zorba on Tue Sep 28, 2021 at 04:31:21 PM EST
    We shouldn't have gone in there, and we certainly shouldn't have gone into Iraq.