U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Dennis Hoffman, Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Republican Congress Keep Digging the Afghanistan Withdrawal Ahead of Elections

WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES – The US House Foreign Affairs Committee has for months been investigating the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021. It now says it will bring forth two top Generals who oversaw the process to testify before the committee. 

In a press release titled “A ‘Strategic Failure’: Biden’s Withdrawal, America’s Generals, and the Taliban Takeover” on Tuesday, March 5, the committee announced that they will hear testimonies from these former officials on March 19.

General Mark A. Milley, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the US Department of Defense, and General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., former Commander of the US Central Command at the US Department of Defense, have been invited to attend the hearing session as witnesses.

The US House Foreign Affairs Committee’s investigation of the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan is led by the republican congressman Michael McCaul. This withdrawal resulted in the collapse of the US-backed republic government and the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan after two decades of insurgency.

Since then, Mr. McCaul and his committee have consistently criticized the Biden administration’s handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, labeling it as a “mistake of epic proportions” and accusing the administration of failing to have a contingency plan in place.

Last month, the committee summoned Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghanistan-born US diplomat who   served as the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation. Mr. Khalilzad was put in charge of negotiating with the Taliban by former President Donald Trump.

In February 2020, he signed the deal based on which the US forces would have had to leave Afghanistan by the summer of 2021. The Biden Administration, dismissing all criticisms and pleas to correct course, honored the deal and withdrew its troops, which brought the precipitous collapse of the government in Kabul in a matter of weeks.

The US military withdrawal from Afghanistan and its manner of execution, along with its subsequent outcome repositioning the country as a potential terrorist hub, have faced widespread criticism. Even top US generals like Mark Milley, who oversaw the operation, have voiced concerns about the way it was conducted.

During an interview with ABC News, Mr. Milley described the withdrawal as a “strategic failure,” stating that it did not align with his intended outcome.

“It didn’t end the way I wanted it. That didn’t end the way any of us wanted it,” Milley said. “Look,  when the enemy is occupying your capital, … that’s a strategic setback, strategic failure. And there’s no way you can describe that as a strategic success,” he added.

The retired US General further emphasized that the US-led war in Afghanistan was not lost in a matter of days or months, but rather, it was the cumulative effect of numerous twists and turns over many years.

“And this war, when the final history is written, will prove to be the same. Lots of lessons learned. Lots of lefts when you should have gone right. And that’ll all come out in due time. But lots of regrets, absolutely, 100%. Every single soldier I lost is a regret.”

The US-led war in Afghanistan imposed significant costs on both the United States and the people of Afghanistan, as well as other countries involved in combating terrorist groups like the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

According to data from the United States Institute of Peace, the US government spent $2.3 trillion on the war, with the human cost including 2,324 US military personnel, 3,917 US contractors, and 1,114 allied troops.

For the people of Afghanistan, the toll is significantly higher, with over 70,000 military and police deaths, along with 46,319 Afghan civilians killed.

To a greater extent, the indirect costs are unimaginable, considering injuries and illnesses, displacement, war widows and orphans, malnutrition, destruction of infrastructure, and environmental degradation due to the war.

The congressional committee and its subcommittees have heard testimony from experts as well as former military officials from Afghanistan.