Senior U.S. military officials have told Congress they have overestimated the strength of the Afghan military and believed the U.S. should keep at least a few thousand troops in the country to prevent a rapid takeover of power by militants. the Taliban.
At a long-awaited hearing on Sept. 28, General Mark Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committee that it was his personal opinion that at least 2,500 U.S. troops should have been there as guards against the rapid fall of Government in Kabul. Gen. Frank McKenzie, who oversaw the final months of US efforts in Afghanistan, said he agreed with Milley.
The two did not say what they recommended to US President Joe Biden, who has been criticized by Republicans for the way US troops withdrew from Afghanistan in late August. Biden initially called on all troops to withdraw by September 11, the 20th anniversary of al-Qaeda terrorist attacks in the United States, which have spurred US occupation of Afghanistan.
He then changed the date, setting August 31 as the deadline. During the hearing, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin defended the withdrawal of the army from Kabul, which resulted in the death of 13 American soldiers as a result of an attack near Kabul airport. Austin has said it would be “difficult but absolutely possible” to stop future threats from Afghanistan without military troops there.
Milley cited the “very real possibility” that al-Qaeda or the Islamic State of Afghanistan could return to Afghanistan during the Taliban regime and pose a terrorist threat to the United States in the next 12 or 36 months. Al-Qaeda has used Taliban-led Afghanistan as a base to plan and execute attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.
Austin has said U.S. military leaders have mistakenly believed that the Afghan army, which they have built and trained for two decades, could fight the Taliban. “We have helped build the state, but we have not been able to create a nation,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The fact that the Afghan army, which we and our partners have trained, has fallen immediately – in some cases without shots – has taken us by surprise. “It would have been dishonest if I had stated otherwise.”
Milley has said that in his judgment, the US military has lost the ability to see and understand the true state of Afghan forces when it has completed the practice of sending advisers on how many Afghans have been on the battlefield. “The human heart cannot be measured with equipment, you have to be there,” Milley said.
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