Defense

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 Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley 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 Biden’s Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.

“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 Reed (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 Inhofe (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 Blinken will testify at hearings next week.

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 Fischer (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.”

Tags Afghanistan evacuation Antony Blinken Armed Services Committee Deb Fischer Hearing Jack Reed James Inhofe Joe Biden Lloyd Austin Mark Milley Taliban troop withdrawal
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