Austin, Milley to testify on Afghanistan withdrawal

Austin, Milley to testify on Afghanistan withdrawal
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Three of the nation's top defense officials will testify this month about the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Senate Armed Services Committee announced Thursday.

Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinSchumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Afghan evacuation still frustrates Diplomats express 'frustration' to Blinken over Havana syndrome skepticism: report MORE, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyWoodward: Milley was 'setting in motion sensible precautions' with calls to China Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Rocky US alliances as Biden heads to UN assembly Thompson says he hopes Jan 6. committee can complete work by 'early spring' MORE and U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Frank McKenzie will testify at a public hearing scheduled for Sept. 28, the panel said in a news release.

The hearing is the first scheduled public testimony from the trio since the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan, the collapse of an Afghan government and forces the U.S. military spent two decades bolstering and the ensuing chaos as the United States raced to evacuate as many people as possible before President BidenJoe BidenUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Schumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks GOP Rep. Cawthorn likens vaccine mandates to 'modern-day segregation' MORE’s Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.

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“Although we have completed the withdrawal of American military personnel and over 100,000 civilians from Afghanistan, I remain deeply concerned about the events that accompanied our withdrawal and the ongoing humanitarian crisis,” committee Chairman Jack ReedJack ReedTop Republican: General told senators he opposed Afghanistan withdrawal We have a plan that prioritizes Afghanistan's women — we're just not using it This week: Democrats kick off chaotic fall with Biden's agenda at stake MORE (D-R.I.) said in a statement Thursday. “It is the duty of Congress—and the Senate Armed Services Committee in particular—to hold hearings to learn lessons from the situation in Afghanistan and ensure accountability at the highest levels.”

Prior to the open hearing, Gen. Scott Miller, who was the last commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, will brief the committee behind closed doors Wednesday, the panel said.

Additionally, the committee will hold a hearing on Sept. 30 where yet-to-be-named outside experts will review U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, according to the release.

“I’m grateful to Chairman Reed for prioritizing these critical oversight hearings on Afghanistan — the first of what I will expect to be many hearings and briefings to review and determine what happened, who should be held accountable, and how we move forward,” Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeTop Republican: General told senators he opposed Afghanistan withdrawal Austin, Milley to testify on Afghanistan withdrawal The Pentagon budget is already out of control: Some in Congress want to make it worse MORE (R-Okla.), the committee’s ranking member, said in the statement. “The American people, our service members past and present, our allies and partners around the world and the Afghans who bravely helped us deserve this transparency and accountability.”

The Armed Services Committee’s announcement comes after the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees announced Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Diplomats express 'frustration' to Blinken over Havana syndrome skepticism: report Biden's post-Afghanistan focus on China is mostly positive so far MORE will testify at hearings next week.

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Lawmakers in both parties have been demanding answers about the messy exit from Afghanistan, including why U.S. officials appeared caught off guard at the rapid collapse of Afghan government forces.

Last month, Reed vowed to hold hearings "at the appropriate time" on "what went wrong in Afghanistan and lessons learned to avoid repeating those mistakes.”

In recent days, Republicans have also called for Armed Services hearings.

Committee member Sen. Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerAustin, Milley to testify on Afghanistan withdrawal After messy Afghanistan withdrawal, questions remain House Democrats press leaders to include more funding for electric vehicles in spending plan MORE (R-Neb.) sent a letter to Reed and Inhofe on Sept. 2 asking for hearings to examine “the operational conduct of a military-led evacuation effort, as well as seeking answers to broader questions about the administration’s counterterrorism policy and the strategic impact these events have on our national security interests.”

Ten other Republicans on the committee also sent a letter to Reed on Wednesday calling on the panel to “fully exercise its oversight authority by holding both opened and closed hearings on this matter.”

“We owe it to our nation, those who served, their families, and our allies and partners who fought alongside us, to preserve the records of how our fight in Afghanistan concluded,” the Republicans, led by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (Ala.), wrote in the letter. “The insights we gather will help prevent future loss of American blood and treasure, a solemn responsibility and sacred trust we believe all members of our committee will seek to uphold.”