Generals once again criticize Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal

Two retired U.S. generals criticized the 2021 U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan as they diverged from President Joe Biden’s position on the military exit.

Retired Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, the former commander of U.S. Central Command, and retired Gen. Mark Milley, former Joint Chiefs chair, said the exit from Afghanistan in August 2021 came up short, even as the country prepared to enter its second full decade in the conflict.

”If there was culpability in this attack, it lies in policy decisions that created the environment,” McKenzie said in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “I — and I alone — bear full military responsibility for what happened at Abbey Gate,” he said, referencing a suicide bombing which killed 13 servicemembers.

Milley was quick to say the impacts from the withdrawal were not due to Biden’s ultimate decision alone also but that “it was the cumulative effect of many decisions over many years of war.” However, he was quick to offer praise to the U.S. military troops who jumped in during the chaotic evacuation.

“To all veterans of Afghanistan, hold your heads high. Each of you did what the country asked of you under extreme circumstances,” Milley said. “It was a pretty consistent assessment … that the withdrawal of the military forces and the contractors and the NATO forces that went with it would ultimately” lead to a collapse of the government.

Both generals appeared voluntarily before the committee and testified the evacuation plan came “too little, too late” in light of the situation on the ground.

McKenzie acknowledged the limitations of the U.S. operations to get everyone out of the area.

“I never thought we’d get everybody out,” he said. “You’re never going to attain perfection there, but you want get that number as small as possible.”

This is not the first time the generals have testified on their disagreements with the administration’s stance on the withdrawal. Both told the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2021 that they disagreed with Biden’s decision on the matter, a rare break for two sitting generals from the commander-in-chief.

Foreign Affairs Chair Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who has clashed with the State Department over records related to the withdrawal, offered his assessment of the Biden administration’s approach to ending the conflict: “Fail they did.”

“I will not rest until I get to the bottom of this tragedy. You deserve answers,” the Texan said, addressing the families of some of the 13 servicemembers killed in the Abbey Gate attack. “The American people deserve answers. And I intend to deliver.”

McCaul indicated that “we will have an agreement” to boost the number of Afghani citizens eligible for special immigrant visas, though the exact total remains under negotiation.

Ranking member Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) argued a proper understanding of the conflict requires reviewing the actions taken “over four administrations” in the region.

“There’s not really anything new that was learned today because you’ve testified to it before,” Meeks said.

Joe Gould contributed to this report.

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