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tv   Inside Politics With John King  CNN  September 28, 2021 9:00am-10:00am PDT

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also a key part of the plan was to maintain an embassy in kabul and maintaining that embassy would allow us to continue to engage the government, to continue to provide resources to support the afghan security forces so it was -- the plan was to leave a diplomatic presence there, and in conjunction with that plan we also were going to leave a small military force there to help secure the embassy, so that was the plan, senator. >> but you didn't address the issue that you made -- if it was your plan, you acknowledge it was your plan and your plan said you would do all these things before we got our civilians out. i mean, when in the history of this country have we ever had the u.s. military say and have a plan that we will take our
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military out first before we take our civilians? i can't imagine that. >> when you say civilians, are you -- are you talking. >> american citizens. >> american citizens, yeah. >> the american citizens would come out once a non-combatant evacuation is declared, and until that point typically we don't evacuate all the citizens in the country. >> but we didn't here. there's american citizens still there. >> and we continue to remain engaged and work to get those citizens out, senator. >> but why would you propose a plan that didn't get all american citizens out? i just can't imagine ever in the history of this country our u.s. military would propose to leave a country without our citizens coming out first. i mean, have we ever done that before? >> all of the american citizens wouldn't leave, senator, unless there was a non-combatant evacuation, and, you know, the
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plan was to leave the embassy there, to continue to address the needs of our american citizens, to engage with the government and so that was a part of the plan, not -- again, the plan was never to evacuate the american citizens and leave the embassy there. >> did it bother you when the president went on national television and said that he would not leave until all the american citizens were -- were taken out? did it bother you that when he said that, because it's clearly -- was not truthful? >> you know, senator, you know, you -- you heard me say several times that we're going to work as hard as we can for as long as we can to get every american citizen out that wants to come out, and we continue to do that to this day. >> well, i'm running out of time. one thing i -- when we have the next round, i want to understand what decisions would you make differently today to save those 13 lives of service men and women that we lost at the kabul
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airport, but thank you very much. thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator, if i could comment on your first opening comment, if i may. >> go ahead, sir. >> yeah. i am happy to lay out every detail and all the intel to you as an individual, to any other member or to a committee or anything you want on these chinese calls at your convenience. happy to do it. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> thank you, senator scott. senator duckworth, please. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i share my colleague concerns about the rapid collapse of the afghan national defense and security forces, and the afghan government and the failure of our intelligence. we need some answers. after investing two decades, nearly $2 trillion and most importantly the lives of almost 2,500 of american troops, our nation must conduct a thorough hand honest review of the united states government's involvement in afghanistan since the september 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. for the sake of current and
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future generations of war fighters, we must capture the hard lessons from afghanistan to ensure that these lessons are not forgotten or worse repeated on a future battlefield. this is our moral responsibility as a nation. gentlemen, all three of you have been involved in the war in afghanistan multiple times in multiple different capacities throughout your careers. secretary austin, was the situation on the ground in afghanistan over the last few months influenced by previous decisions made over the course of several years? >> i absolutely believe, that senator. foremost among those decisions is the -- is the doha agreement i think that that severely impacted the morale of the military. >> thank you. secretary austin, if that's the case, is it possible to have an intellectually honest lessons learned exercise that only looks at the most recent events in afghanistan of the last couple of months, or must any effective review look at the whole 20
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years since september 11th? >> i think you have to look at the -- at the entire 20 years, senator. i think there's some great lessons learned that we're going to take away once we do that, but, yeah, i believe you've got to look at the entire time spent. >> thank you. i agree that an effective review must be comprehensive. after all, the war in afghanistan was shaped by four different administrations and 11 different congresses. no party should be looking to score cheap partisan political points off a multi-decade nation-building failure that was bipartisan in the making. instead, congress should authorize a long-term effort solely devoted to bringing accountability and transparency to the afghanistan war and lessons to be learned. that is why on thursday i will be introducing the afghanistan war study commission. my bill would establish a bipartisan independent commission to examine every aspect of the war, including the political and strategic decisions that transformed a
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focused military mission into vast nation-building campaign. importantly this commission must produce actionable recommendations designed to guide the develop of real reforms just as the 9/11 commissions were informed congressional law making efforts in the years after its publication. secretary austin, would you agree with me that such an independent, long-term study could serve as an effective complementary effort to the more targeted lessons learned reviews that dod always conducts, particularly in shedding light on how congress and civilian leaders from multiple government agencies can do a better job in defining the scope of military missions and actually enforcing legal limitations on the use of force? >> i would, and i -- the point that you're making, in my view it needs to be an interagency approach to this. >> thank you, and i do want to note that my family and i were in cambodia until the very end. i'm an american.
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i was born in thailand, but my father worked for the united nations, and to answer my colleague's question, my father chose to stay as long as possible to help the cambodian people as long as possible, and he left after american troops had left. the american ambassador stayed behind after american troops had left and in fact after the last military transport left, i know this because my father was on the last military transport to leave cambodia and the ambassador had to travel overland. we do leave americans behind but this is all tied to operations and how it's planned which is why i think it's so important that we have an independent investigation. maybe the failure here was that we didn't have a plan in place and we didn't act straight before our troops left. if that's the case, we need to learn, that so i would ask for my colleagues to consider this independent commission. we put somebody in charge of it who is not in a decision-making capacity during the 20 years, make it non-partisan and let's get those lessons learned so we
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don't make the same mistakes over and over again. our troops deserve better and the families of the 2,500 american troops who laid down their lives to protect and defend this constitution, who followed the lawful order of all of those presidents, they deserve better than partisan fights. we need to get some real answers. thank you. i yield back, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator duckworth. now i'll recognize senator blackburn. >> thank you, mr. chairman. gentlemen, we thank you all for being here with us today. as you've heard from all of us, the american people, tennesseeans are wanting some answers. they deserve to hear your testimony, and i think it is unacceptable that this is the first time that i'm hearing from you in any forum despite attempts at outreach by both me and my staff, save a few shot all senator phone calls that we have had. i want to emphasize all of us here, every one of us answer to
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the american people, and they deserve transparency and information regarding this administration's botched and disgraceful withdrawal. tennesseeans are realliagery, and as you know, general milley, tennessee is home to the 101st airborne, one of the most deployed divisions in the u.s. military. we're also home to the specialized 160th soar who were among the last on the ground extracting u.s. citizens from danger in kabul. tennessee national guard units have deployed to afghanistan at a high operational tempo as well as providing vital logistical services such as refueling. we are home to more than 400,000 veterans, many of whom have lasting physical and psychological wounds from the time they have spent in service, and tennesseeans are heartbroken over the loss of one of our own
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staff sergeant ryan kanass, a patriotic american who represented the best of all of us in the august 26th suicide bombing at hamid karzai international airport. he made the ultimate sacrifice. so, how did we get here and how did we get to what has been a complete letdown to most tennesseeans, and i've got a few questions. these are yes or no questions. so quick answers are appreciated. general milley, were there options given for keeping american troops in afghanistan rather than the unconditional chaotic withdrawal? >> yes. >> you presented options and those options were declined? >> there were options present and debated. >> yes or no. >> the decision was made. >> yes or no is fine. >> did you at any point create
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options for keeping baghram open beyond july 2nd? >> yes. >> did you provide options for keeping baghram open directly to the president? >> yes. >> had baghram stayed open, would our support to the afghan air force have been more effective in your view? >> i'm sorry, i didn't catch the last part. >> if baghram had stayed open, would our support to the afghan air force have been more effective in your view, yes or no? >> frankly i'm not sure on that one because most of the afghan air force was at different bases, specifically hkia. >> president keeps calling it an extraordinary success. we've discussed some of this today. is leaving americans behind an extraordinary success in your view, secretary austin? >> we're not leaving americans behind. >> yes or no is fine. >> is the killing of 13 american
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service men and women while trying to secure a chaotic evacuation of the president's own making an extraordinary success? >> the loss of any civilian life is always tragic. >> is the fact that we failed to evacuate most of our afghan partners an extraordinary success or the fact that we have afghans bringing child brides, people who are hardly vetted, is that an extraordinary success? >> again, these are issues that we continue to work to get our american citizens out and -- >> let me move on. per article 2 of the constitution the president may require the opinion in writing of the principal officer in each of the executive departments. did the president ever require our request written recommendations related to the withdrawal of the afghan forces, yes or no, secretary austin and general milley and then general mckenzie, yes or no? >> i provided our input as a
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part -- >> i can't -- >> in mitten form? >> a policy process that was very well and deliberately run. >> we'll note that you didn't completely answer that. >> general milley, any written form? >> yes. >> would you make those available to us? >> make it available to the committee upon request and in accordance with the appropriate classify kagsz. >> we will do so. general mckenz, yes or no? >> yes. >> and you will make those available. >> based on guidance from the. >> each of you had committed to make those available when you went through your confirmation processes. we'll come back to you for those. general milley, yes or no to this. did you talk to bob woodward or bob costa for their book "peril." >> woodward yes, costa know. >> did you talk about to the authors of the book alone can i fix it? >> yes. >> did you talk to michael bender his book "frankly we did win this election, the inside story of how trump lost."
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>> yes. >> and were you accurately represented in these the books? >> i haven't read any of the books so i don't know. i've seen press reporting of it. >> okay. >> i haven't read the book. >> let's have you read the books and then let us know if you were accurately portrayed. >> happy to do that. >> senator blackburn, we're adhering to the five-minute rule. thank you. >> senator rosen, please. >> thank you, chairman reed, ranking member inhofe for tolding today's hearing. the critical part of this committee's oversight responsibilities. it's an opportunity for the american people to get answers about our withdrawal from afghanistan and how we plan to counter terrorist threats in the future. i also want to sincerely thank the brave men and women who served our country in afghanistan, many who made the ultimate sacrifice and, of course, their families as well. secretary austin, general milley and general mckenzie, i appreciate you all being here to
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address lingering concerns we have about the last two decades of war generally and the past two months in particular. you are all men of honor and integrity who have served our country nobly, and i so look forward to your candid responses to my questions, even if they require admitting that in some cases serious mistakes were made. like all senate offices, as the taliban approached kabul and eventually took over the city and the country, my team and i worked to help vulnerable individuals evacuate. these were people who in many cased had the state department's approval to leave afghanistan for the u.s. or third-party country but due to crowds, taliban checkpoints or legitimate fear of being killed along the way, they could just not physically get to a gate to present their paperwork no matter how many times they tried or no matter how long they waited. my office worked with centcom and the afghanistan task force to try to coordinate opportunities just to grab these people from the crowd so they
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could present their paperwork and flee to safety, but, unfortunately, again, these efforts were to no avail. as these individuals continue to wait for help that may never come, i remain frustrated that the u.s. did not set up a perimeter around kabul or at the very least create a safe corridor for the s-1 visa holders to get to the airport and their families and potential asylum seekers who were attempting to escape a near certain death. so continued support, general milley, i appreciate the state department now take the lead on evacuations, but like our military, the state department no longer has any presence on the ground in afghanistan, so i would like to ask you, sir, does the u.s. military's recent experience facilitating the evacuation from kabul give you the confidence that the taliban will be honest brokers in working with our diplomats to help vulnerable afghan nationals leave the country?
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>> i think that what we've seen so far since 391st is some americans have gotten out through diplomatic means, and they have reached safety through either over land routes or through aircraft. i don't know all the details, but i can't imagine that that didn't happen without taliban facilitation. >> well, we can get back to afghan nationals helping them leave the country as well, the siv holders and others who supported us, but secretary austin, the administration has said they will utilize every tool available to hold the taliban accountable if they fail to meet their commitments to provide safe passage for anyone who wants to leave the country. certainly we know there are economic levers, but can you elaborate on what the military tools are and could there be a shared interest in targeting
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isis-k. >> in terms of military tools we have the ability to take a range of options depending on, you know, what the president's objectives are, so we can do most anything that's required of us because we have substantial resources, but in terms of our cooperation with the taliban against -- to counter isis-k, i won't ven truer to make any comments on that. i would just say that we have -- we have coordinated some things that are very narrow in scope with them to get our people out, as you know, and to continue to further evacuate american citizens, but i won't -- i won't -- i don't think it's right to make assumptions to broader and bigger things from that coordination. they are still the taliban. >> thank you. i would just like to -- in the
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few seconds i have left and we can take the second rounder off the record, future counterterrorism operations, we have to reorganize our counterterrorism capabilities and our assets in the reg op, of course, as we move to an over-the-horizon scenario, so second austin and general mckenzie, and we'll take these in the second round, i would like the teens what is the plan for an enduring counterterrorism strategy that's going to be able to address and counter the influence of the violent extremist organizations in afghanistan? thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator rosen. senator hawley, please. >> thank you, mr. chairman. let me just sum up where i understand that we are based on what's been a fairly extraordinary hearing. here's what i've had learned so far. number one, the president. united states lied to the american people about the advice that you gave to him about the military judgment that you provided for him. i think you've all testified to that effect now repeatedly. second the state department and
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maybe the white house may have appeared to push back the evacuation to such a time that it became a catastrophe, apparently against your advice though i would like to learn more about that and third, the pentagon failed to plan for the potential collapse of a security forces or the collapse of the afghan government despite there being quite a lot of warning. senator kane referred to it this earlier, that the afghan security forces were ill-trained and ill equipped and frankly not up to the job. i don't understand and i would like to explore that in this round or the neck and secretary austin i have to take issue. i know this is an administration talking point. i've heard it out of the mouth of the press secretary and others. we are not leaving americans behind. that was your quote of just a minute ago. with all due respect, circumstances you have left, past tense, americans behind. we have no presence any longer in afghanistan. there were hundreds of americans -- not just americans generally, civilians you left behind against the president's
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explicit commitment not to leave until all american citizens were out and to safety. that is not what happened, and now we have people who are desperately frantically trying to get out of this country coming to me, coming to members of this committee asking for help. they can't get that help. they are stuck behind enemy lines so please don't tell me that we're not leaving americans behind. you left them behind. joe biden left them behind around frankly it was a disgrace. let me ask you this though. >> senator, thanks for your help and continuing to help get american citizens and afghans who have helped us out of the country but as you've seen we've continued to facilitate -- >> i didn't ask you a question. you seem to want to address the issue so since you do, isn't it true that you left americans behind on august the 31st? >> there are americans -- there were americans that were still in afghanistan. >> show yes. >> and who still are. >> we continue to work to try to get the americans out. >> that's a yes. let's not repeat, please, the frankly falsehood that we didn't leave americans behind.
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let me ask you this. secretary austin, you said -- you've alluded to several times the fact that the military was red. you say this in your prepared remarks by late april. military planners had crafted a number of evacuation scenarios. you refer later in your remarks that you were waiting for the state department to make a decision about evacuations. nbc news is reporting this morning that the military wanted to begin evacuationed earlier but the state department and the white house intervened and by may the 8th said no, we're delaying the evacuations of our civilians. can you just help us get to the truth here. was it your judgment and opinion that the evacuations of civilians should have have begun before the middle of august? >> we provided our input to the state department and, again, it's a call of the state department -- i understand that. i understand that, mr. secretary. i'm asking for what your judgment was and i'm asking specifically about your testimony that in april you developed evacuation scenarios and this is reported by multiple sources this morning in the news so i just wonder.
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as of late april it was your opinion that the evacuations of civilians should begin, should begin earlier than they did? >> we provided input to -- to try to get out as many afghans who have helped us along the way as, you know, as early as possible, but, again, the state department made its decisions based upon the fact that even.ghani had engaged them and said, hey, we're very concerned about the mass exodus of civilians from the country. >> general mill year, let me direct this to you. did you -- did you ever advise in the inter agency process that the rapid withdrawal timeline that the white house, the pentagon signed off on and general miller proposed getting us to zero by middle of july, that that would negatively impact our ability to get out civilians. if we had drawn down to zero by july, if we then had a civilian
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evacuation order we'd in a lot of trouble. did you ever advise to that -- to that effect during the inter agency process? did you warn about that possibility of drawing down so quickly before civilian evacuation was under way? >> yeah, but it's more complicated than that. the drawdown of the forces under miller, those guys are advisers. they are not the neo kind of guys. the neo troops are marine expeditionary unit and elements of the 82nd airborne division. that's what you need in order to do the neo. those are the plans that the secretary is referring to that were developed early on, and there are specific triggers required in the state department who calls the time of the neo. the secretary in fact on the 12th august started pushing forces and orders and on the 14th the ambassador, ambassador wills op, called the neo. should that have been called earlier? i think that's an open question
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that needs further exploration basis on a series of meetings but the april piece and the drawdown of the advisers, that's a separate and distinct task and the retrograde of those forces. those 2,500 advisers weren't the guys bring out american citizens anyway. those were the advisers to the afghan security force. there were concerns that we raised throughout the inter agency that when those advisers, if the advisers were to stay, then there's a possibility that, you know, the afghan security forces would hang in this. we all knew when we pulled the advisers out, when we pulled the money out, that at some point in the future, most said it was in the fall, that the afghan security forces were going to fracture and the government would collapse. the speed at which that happens in august is a different animal. the advise remembers already gone by mid-july. there is still a government. there is still an afghan army, and the assumption was that it would remain and the mission was to keep the embassy open, secure
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the embassy, transition that off to contractors and then all the military would be out and it would be a diplomatic mission and a money in over the horizon fund. none that have happened because that army and government collapsed very rapidly. as soon as those indicators became fractured, secretary austin and others throughout government executed and implemented a neo plan in which there were contingencies that were build. there was a plan for the rapid collapse and that was the neo plan that general mckenzie had come up, and it's what was executed. that's why those 6,000 troops could deploy as rapidly as they did. those why all the aircraft showed up. that wasn't done without planning. that done with planning and that was done from an operational and tactical standpoint. that was a success. strategically, strategically the war is lost. the enemy is in kabul so you have a strategic failure while you simultaneously have an operational and tactical success by the soldiers on the ground, so i think we're conflight some things that we need to separate
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in this after action review process so that we clearly understand exactly what happened. sorry for taking that you will time but i thought it was necessary. >> thank you, senator hauly. >> senator kell, please. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. secretary, let me begin by expressing my gratitude to each of the over 100,000 americans, many of them arizonans who served in afghanistan over the past 20 years and to their families. i also commend our service members support of one of the largest airlifts in our country's history. we will never forgot the achievements of the men and women who worked 24/7 in kabul, managed impossible conditions on the ground and above all those who made the ultimate sacrifice protecting innocent civilians. 124,000 people are safe today because of american troops and diplomats. still, after decades of
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conflict, 2,500 american soldiers killed and billions invested in security cooperation, the american people deserve to know why the afghan government and security forces collapsed in a matter of days, and how there was a failure to prepare for this scenario and ensure that our people were out of country before it fell, and i think we've established here that the withdrawal and 'vacation did not account for real world conditions and that the intelligence was flawed. the united states wields incredible power as a global leader and our accountability must match our influence. for our own national security and for each of those who served in afghanistan during our longest war, we must understand what happened, but also look forward to ensure that our posture allows us to provide for
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our national security and prevent afghanistan's use as a base for terrorist activity. so i want to transition and look forward and not ask you questions that you've already answered. general mckenzie, america's armed forces have been on the front lines fighting terrorists for the past 20 years. during this time al qaeda and other terrorist organizations have been degraded. while hour military presence in afghanistan has ended, our commitment to fighting terrorism has not. with our withdrawal complete, the afghan caps collapse and the taliban seeking to fill the power vacuum left behind, how is central command postured to prevent terrorist organizations from gaining strength in the region? >> senator, probably the details of this would be best left to the classified session which we'll have late they are afternoon, but i would tell you
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that i have today headquarters that has the ability to look into afghanistan, albeit limited, and we have the ability to fuse the different disciplines of intelligence to look particularly at isis-k and al qaeda. we're still refining that, the best practices on that, but we do have a way forward. i've told this committee before it's very hard to do this. it is not impossible to do this. >> well, i'm looking forward to seeing those details in the closed hearing. are you confident that we can deny organizations like al qaeda and isis the ability to use afghanistan as a launchpad for terrorist activity? >> i think that's yet to be seen. i think we're still seeing how al qaeda and isis are configuring themselves against the taliban. we're still seeing whether the taliban is going to do, so i think -- i would not say i'm confident that those going to be on the ground yet. we could get to that point but i do not have that level of confidence. >> and you might have to share this in the closed hearing, but do you have the resources
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necessary to accomplish this even as our national security pivots towards great power or near peer threats like china and russia that are seeking to expand their influence and compete with our military? >> i'm in a constant dialogue with the secretary about requirements of centcom and i'll give you more details in the closed session. well, thank you. and i know you can't go into much detail about the analysis that led to the august 28th drone strike in kabul in this open setting, but i would like to note my serious concerns and give you the opportunity to make any comment on how the american people can know that the military will be able to adequately assess targets before conducting future strikes and operations even as we have even fewer local intelligence and surveillance resources to leverage. >> senator, again, the matter is under investigation, but what i can tell you broadly and to restate some things that i've said earlier, i'm responsible
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for that. it happened in my area of responsibility. so i'm the responsible officer for that strike. moreover, i was under no pressure and no one in my chain of command below me was under any pressure to take that strike. we acted based on the intelligence read that we saw on ground. we acted several times on intelligence that we saw, and we were successful in other occasions in preventing attacks. this time tragically we were wrong and you're right to note that as we go forward and our ability to create what we call the ecosystem that allows you to see what's going on on the ground and put all of that together, it's going to get a lot harder to do that, particularly in places like afghanistan, but i can share a little more with you later. >> thank you, general. >> thank you, senator kelly. senator tuberville. >> gentlemen, thanks for being here. our part of the most powerful military in the word. i'll ask all three in you. is there any enemy that can defeat the strongest force in the world, the united states military and i know all of you are going to say no so secretary austin since your confirmation
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in january have you been denied any resources with regard to afghanistan? i think i heard you say earlier you got everything that you needed? >> that's correct, senator. >> thank you. on august 18th you were asked why the u.s. wouldn't rescue americans who couldn't reach the airport. you responded, quote, i don't have the capability to go out and extend operations currently in kabul, end quote. we saw the germans, the french, the british rhett cue citizens in kabul, but from this administration which commands the world's most lethal fighting force we saw nothing but blame, weakness and our american citizens were left to fend for themselves. our fighting men and women have the courage and discipline to defeat the enemy anytime anywhere and there's people all over the country wondering why in heck would we let the allies get their people and we didn't get ours. i want to thank the 100,000 veterans and families who sacrificed over the past 20 years and i truly believe our soldiers didn't fail us. a lot of our leadership did. second austin, before president
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biden even took office, you thought we needed to leave afghanistan. on january the 19th you told my colleague senator sheehan, quote, i think this conflict needs to come to an end and we need to see an agreement reached and in accordance with what the p president-elect wants to see. you said general miller and general milley had enough assets and you told others that you wanted to make recommendations to the president and others. did you give advice to the president on the withdrawal of afghanistan without conditions or is that the direction that you got from him? >> again, my recommendations were a part of a very deliberate process where we present a range of options for the president, and if i could, senator, i would like to go back to the first comment that you made about
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the -- the question that i answered for a reporter who asked why don't you go out and establish cordons and create safe passageways for our people just to -- just to move into the airport? at that point early on in -- in our deployment, we only had -- we had less than 4,000 or about 4,000 troops to secure and defend the airport, and our troop presence continued to grow as we flowed people in. we used a number of innovative approaches to go out and pick up and facilitate the entry of american citizens into the airport as the situation continued to develop, but -- but just wanted to give you a little context for that answer. >> well, thank you. you know, we're all talking about did president biden know all this, and, you know, my question about withdrawal, you know, basically there's two options. i can answer that, either the president was given bad military
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advice or he gave his military the terrible decision and direction to surrender afghanistan without condition. i'll have some more here in a few minutes had. i want to make a couple of statements. you know, the american people, especially the people i represent they are disgusted by how this u.s. surrender happened in afghanistan, and i know you've heard that yourselves, all three of you. american veterans are pissed off that their service was squandered. american allies are in disbelief and america's enemies are delighted. the taliban are euphoric at the job that happened with our military given the orders to retreat. president biden abandoned our allies who fought alongside us for 20 years. this administration left american citizens behind enemy lines. we left $85 billion worth of equipment that the american taxpayers paid for, and this
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administration created sanction sanctuary for terrorists to plot against the united states for years and years to come. it's just absolutely amazing that we did this, so i'll end it there. i know these guys need to probably take a break, but we'll see you after the break. thank you, mr. chairman, and i yield my time. >> thank you very much, senator tuberville. we've completed the first round, and as i've indicated we will break at 1:00 for lunch so we'll begin the second round. >> welcome to "inside politics." i'm john king in washington. you've been listening to a dramatic hearing up on capitol hill. substance and shock as part of that hearing. top generals contradicting the president while discussing the withdrawal from afghanistan. they tell senators this morning they recommended teaching 2,500 or more american service members on the ground in afghanistan. republicans saying this is evidence president biden did not tell the american people the truth about his decisions and the aftermath and also this during that hearing. the joint chiefs chairman
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defending his actions in the chaotic days after the january 6th insurrection. yes, general mark milley says he talked to the house speaker after the capitol attack but general milley made a clear distinction help. said he did not agree with nancy pelosi's assessment that donald trump was crazy and general milley said at no time did he try to do an end around the chain of command. with me to share reporting and insights on this remarkable hearing, cnn's dana bash, kaitlan collins, olivia national and jessica chambers, a lot to unravel and a lot of policy and a lot of substance and disagreement. remarkable public candor about the inner decision-makings at the pentagon and a lot of politics. the generals repeatedly testified that they recommended 2,500 troops stay in afghanistan. they thought that was the best way for the situation. some said maybe as many as 35 up. senator tom cotton of arkansas made reference to an interview with george stephanopoulos where the president said no, no one said to me that i can recall
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about keeping troops. no one said that to me that i can recall. the republicans are saying the president lied to the american people. >> and two of them testified they recommended keeping 2,500 troops there. what i imagine the white house would point to is that caveat, that i can recall. however, i don't think that's going to be a solid defense is why would you not be able to recall something that's so critical advice over how you're conducting this exit from afghanistan and what the top advice that you're getting from your top military aides is, and so when general milley said there as a follow-up is we're here to give advice. we're not the decision-maker. the decision-maker makes the decision on this but they did confirm that this is the advice they have gave to him and president biden had been pressed on this twice by george stephanopoulos in that interview because it had been widely reported by cnn and other major outlets that that was the advice that he had received, that they thought this could happen and though thought if 2,500 troops were there it would help facilitate a more stable situation so those are big
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questions facing the white house hand milley believes this has damaged u.s. credibility on the world stable as another note habel point in that entire hearing. >> republicans were also trying to make the point that during the withdrawal that the president should have kept troops there past the august 31st deadline and on that the generals said unanimously no, they believed it was best to get out because once you got to that point, if you stayed past that dead lipo, you have war with the americans and then the remaining americans in their view would be even more at risk because you have open warfare. >> they rode to president biden's rescue because that's been one of the core talking points to the white house to justify the pace and the withdrawal saying, look, if we stayed we'd be targets again. interesting at one point when general milley was answering senator hawley explaining the difference between the 2,500 troops that had been in country and said those were advisers and trainers, not the kinds of people that you deploy to say take an airport, for example, and that -- that also injected an interesting perspective into how the president went about doing this, but i -- i expect
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that the white house press secretary is going to get peppered with a lot of questions. >> i don't remember, just taking a step back here, last time we've seen a hearing like this with sitting members of the administration, in this case the defense secretary, sitting military leaders, being so candid and open if decisions in a have been made in recent times and very consequential decisions, very can dirksd all the things you talked about, and maybe one of the most blunt assessments came from general milley which is that they -- what they saw was a logistical success meaning getting everyone out last minute but a strategic failure. that's a very, very big statement. >> and on the way he put, that i want to bring in our next guest. general milley said it was a strategic failure. quote, the enemy is in charge in kabul. i'll bring in leon panetta the former defense secretary and cia
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chief. leon panetta, grateful for your time on this important day. to the point. you served as the cia chief, protecting america's see let's and served as defense secretary and white house chief of staff. you know what is and is not discussed publically. i want to come to the specifics in a moment and get your take on it, but to hear these generals talk in such candid detail about the inside debates at the pentagon. they tried to cover a little bit by saying i don't discuss my conversations directly with the president but being quite candid about what they thought and making it clear that's what they told the president. have you ever heard anything like this in public? >> well, you know, i -- i have a great deal of respect for all three, second austin and general milley, general mckenzie because they really presented very frank and honest testimony that i think is important for the country to hear, and i -- i believe that as we try to struggle with the lessons from
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what's happened in afghanistan that is absolutely essential to get the truth as to what they recommended and what happened, and i think that's pretty much what they provided today. >> i think one of the -- i agree with you completely about the truth, both what happened in the last couple of months and also what's happened over the last 20 years and it's kind of clear there's two big issues, one is 19-plus years of failure and the american government lying to itself frankly in afghanistan and then what happened on joe biden's watch in getting out but to the point of a president's credibility, someone who has served in the sensitive positions you, have i want you to listen to this exchange here. this is senator tom cotton making the point after the generals had said they had recommended leaving 2,500 troops and after they made clear that that was their advice to the president of the united states. this exchange. listen. >> secretary austin, president biden last month in an interview with george stephanopoulos said that no military leader advised him to leave a small troop
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presence in afghanistan. is that true? >> senator cotton, i -- i believe that -- well, first of all, i know the president to be an honest and for right man. secondly -- it's a simple question, secretary austin. >> their input was -- was received by the president and considered by the president for sure. >> their input was received and considered by the president for sure. whether you were still the defense secretary or maybe the white house chief of staff and you had to have a conversation with the president and the press secretary before they spoke today, do they need to clean this up and answer a question about the president's cred snablt. >> i think it would be well if they cleared up the confusion that was raised by the president's comments. look, we've got the generals presenting some pretty clear testimony here as toss what their advice was. i think that there's no question
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that they presented that advice to the president. it's also clear that the president went ahead with his decision as he has the right to do as president of the united states, but i do think it needs to be clear that the advice was given and the advice was rejected. >> there's another remarkable moment. we're living in remarkable times. you were here a couple of weeks ago and i was grateful for your time then. job milley caught up in conversations about what were his actions after the insurrection? was he worried donald trump, then president of the united states was going to start a war? in this context about the decision to get out of afghanistan, i believe it was senator cotton again after it was made clear again that the president of the united states, which is his right, he's the civilian commander in chief, essentially did not agree with the advice from his top military commanders who wanted to leave those troops behind. joe biden said, no, we're getting out. general milley was asked why didn't you resign? listen. >> it would be an incredible act of political defiance for a
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commissioned officer to just resign because my advice is not taken. this country doesn't want generals figuring out what orders we are going to accept and do or not. that's not our job. my dad didn't get a choice to resign at iwo jima and those kids at abby gate, they don't get a chance to resign and i'm not going to turn my back on them. they can't resign so i'm not going to resign. >> i thought it was a remarkable answer, and i thought it was also remarkable that the question even comes up, but these are the times we live in when we have truth challenged every day, basic math challenged every day and questions about our democracy sadly almost every day. what did you make of that? >> i think general milley really presented, again, a very honest answer as to the role of the military in these situations. the military provides advice to the president of the united states, but we elect a president of the united states to make the final decision which the
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president did. and general milley salutes and follows the decision of the united states which is the responsibility of our military commanders. so i think he clearly defined the role of the military and the role of our civilian leadership, and i think that was important for the american people to hear. >> leon panetta, grateful for your time on this important day. really appreciate it. thank you. >> let's come back into the room for the conversation. just the fact that the question is asked, number one, but let me just add to t.republicans are asking general milley why didn't you resign when you disagreed with joe biden? republicans are also mad at general milley because he is quoted or at least his views are represented in several of these books about the final days of the trump administration, and it's clearman milley was worried about the stability and what potential decisions might be made. marsha blackburn republican of tennessee decided to put it
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right out there. asked a couple other questions about some of the episodes and she decided straight out essentially to find out how much did you cooperate. >> general milley, yes or no to this. did you talk to bob woodward or robert costa for their book "peril. ? >>" woodward yes and costa no. >> did you talk to the authors of the book "can i fix it? >> yes. >> did you talk to michael bender for his book "as frankly we did win this election, the inside story of how trump lost?" yes or no. >> yes. >> and were you accurately represented in these books? >> i haven't read any of the books. >> a little bit of comedy at the end there, but we should be texting our sources right now make sure they don't get invited to hearings under oath if they are going to ask the questions up there. >> and potentially we know who to call if we decide to write a book as well. john. he did suggest he did talk to almost all of the authors, and while he hasn't read the books he certainly acknowledged he's seen the media coverage, isn't
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exactly disputing all of what was said though you raised some things that he did say to nancy pelosi or didn't, but the point being that there was a primary source. he's just admitted it was him. >> he did dispute though that he was accurately described. i'm sorry. in the very top he devoted a very sizable chunk of his presumed remarks and opening statements saying no, at no point was i trying to hem in the president of the united states and at no point was i making secret calls to the -- that's all. >> i didn't mean to say to pelosi that i believed that. >> he didn't read the books. he clearly closely read the media acounts and the media conversations about the books to. your point what he said was i'm not qualified to determine the mental health of the united states. >> but it goes back to the threat of the civilian control of the military. what was amazing about some of these the books is they were clearly suggesting that we was stepping outside the bound of the constitutional divide and he took pains, no, no, no, we believe in civilian control of the military. >> it's obvious he had spoken to
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some of the authors. if you read the books, a two-way conversation that he had with someone so it's pretty clear he participated. i do think it's notable that he said that. i think the larger point is that the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff felt the need to sit down with these highly respected authors, talk to them about his experiences in this role being hand picked by trump, someone who, of course, has now turned on him and views him quite differently, but i do think it speaks to the level of gravity in this situation regardless of what you feel about milley of what they were face when trump was president. >> you're exactly right. if there was kind of a camera on us while we were watching that it was a moment to watch the chairman of the joint chiefs be asked whether you talked to all of these authors, boom, boom, boom. yes, one-word answer affirming it. it was definitely a moment. it was -- it was affirming what was pretty obvious. i guess he didn't have a choice. he was asked upped oath. >> also just so rare. you don't have -- i hope you don't have 20-year wars where
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this comes up, but just to see america's top general as essentially the star witness, even though the defense secretary was here and some of the other combatant commanders were there, for milley to be there and to the point a moment ago we talked about it so let's just listen. in the book, in "the peril" book nancy pelosi said she was having this conversation is the president going to launch a military attack. you know he's crazy. that's what he said and nancy pelosi said he agreed with her. he says -- >> she was concerned and made very or made various personal references characterizing the president. i explained to her that the president is the sole nuclear launch authority and he doesn't launch them alone and that i am not qualified to determine the mental health of the president of the united states. >> you are on the program and making this point when the book came out that sounds of that sounds like, whoa, what was milley doing, but the way he describes it anyway is that, no, actually, we have procedures and
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he was as a veteran of the system using the system to his advantage. >> he's part of the chain of communication, not the chain of command which is how he phrased it in his statements today and the point that he describes making to nancy pelosi is there was not going to be an illegal or accidental launch which is pretty important. up other thing that milley said that i thought was interesting and senator joe manchin pointed to it as well. i think it's really important. this war wasn't lost in the last month or last year. >> right. >> joe manchin coming out and saying how is it possible that you guys were caught by surprise? every time we've had an analysis of this conflict, people have come back and said they can't stand on their own. they can't fight without american support. the government has a crisis of lgtssy. there's rampant corruption by, by the way, the u.s. field. that was a good moment too and i think it was milley who said, yeah, well, right this. what is lost over the course of the last two decade. >> right. >> also him saying they don't necessarily agree with what the state department said about how many americans are left there,
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that they don't really have a good accounting of that, manchin raising how much equipment is there. those are big questions that are not going away. >> that's a great point because you heard frustration even from democrats because the pentagon keeps saying ask the state department and the state department says ask the defense department and senator kaine said get your act together. >> and they don't know where the democratically elected president of afghanistan is right now nor do they know how much u.s. american dollars he has with him. that's incredible. >> going back to tim kaine, your point, not just republicans, it's democrats and one point that tim kaine had raised, if you can't get people to take the vaccine in america, you can't get people to believe nat election was not stolen, why did you think that you were going to be able to get the afghans to be able to fight for themselves, and so, you know, i thought -- >> and to accept democratic norms, to accept that women should be educated, to accept a
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public health care system. a great point. how do you change a nation when you have a hard time persuading your own and the white house watch eds points like this because even the democrats were mad about how it happened, even democrats who support it's time to end the war in afghanistan, time to leave, had questions about the messy withdrawal. the white house you're sending a thank you note to elizabeth warren who went out of her way to come to the president's defence. >> did president biden tom your advice on executed on the evacuation plan? >> he did. >> did president biden give you all the resources that you needed? >> from my view he did. >> did president biden ignore your advice on the evacuation at any point? >> no, senator, he did not. >> the did he refuse any requests for anything that you noted or asked for? >> no. >> it's incredibly complicated issue, and there will be a lot of questions to the administration. what you saw there though is a
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fellow democrat who understands this is part of the toll on the president's poll numbers, the rising covid cases, the messy withdrawal from afghanistan. that's a democrat trying to come to the president's assist. >> never mind that it was for context after the barn door closed. >> right. >> when the president and everybody saw what was going on there, of course he's going say yes to everything and anything the military wants to try to calm the chaos and evacuate people. the questions, the larger questions and answers we got today were what about before the decision to withdraw and why not heed the military recommendation to leave some troops there? >> and i think raises one other big question is that the president felt repeatedly he felt bound by this agreement that trump struck with the taliban and that's why he had to follow through on the timeline and that's something he said repeatedly. they said the taliban only honored one part that have so essentially it was defunct and they weren't actually following what it should look like. >> general milley was very emphatic on that. when you make these deals, base
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them on conditions, not firm deadlines. that's all the time we have today. thanks for joining us on "inside politics." don't go anywhere. asdrubal cabrera -- ana cabrera picks up our coverage right after a quick break. eating salmi with a japanese jiggly cheesecake. (doorbell rings) jolly good. fire. (horse neighing) elton: nas? yeah? spare a pound? what? you know, bones, shillings, lolly? lolly? bangers and mash? i'm... i'm sorry? i don't have any money. you don't look broke. elton: my rocket is skint! helen knew exercise could help her diabetes... but she didn't know what was right for her. no. nope.
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hello. i'm ana cabrera in new york of the right now we're awaiting a press conference with the family of gabby petito. we know show was killed, but exactly how she died still a mystery. her fiance still missing, but we're hearing from his family today as well. the fbi has an arrest warrant for brian laundrie, but they have scaled back the search today. more on this as soon as that news conference gets under way. we will go there live. we are also monitoring the testimony on capitol


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