tv Americas Newsroom With Bill Hemmer Dana Perino FOX News September 28, 2021 6:00am-8:00am PDT
>> dana: pent up demand. hearing today and another one in the senate and tomorrow in the house. here the players. you have it ready. joint chiefs chairman mark milley, lloyd austin and centcom commander general mckenzie and be pressed whether president biden ignored their advice leading to the chaos in afghanistan. >> bill: so many images seared into our mem re. six weeks ago yesterday afghans clinging to a parting u.s. cargo jet. some of them falling to their deaths on that tarmac. >> dana: parents handing over newborn daughters and sons desperate to get them as far as possible from the taliban. >> bill: days before the august 30th withdrawal deadline an isis suicide bombing targeted the crowd outside the airport. 13 american service members killed, two women. >> dana: lawmakers will press the generals on a retaliatory drone strike. the pentagon claimed it killed terrorists responsible for that bombing. we later found out it wasn't true. the victims were 10 innocent civilians, most children.
>> bill: the billions in u.s. military equipment. the finest in the world that we left behind. some disabled. a lot of it now in the hands of the taliban. >> dana: today's hearing is expected to touch on the fate of afghan women. the taliban moving to erase decades of congress resuming public beatings, amputations and executions. >> bill: unknown numbers of americans and u.s. allies trapped in the afghanistan after the president made a promise to get them all out safely. >> dana: we'll speak to one of the lawmakers who will question the generals. first jennifer griffin who helped us walk our way through those six weeks is at the pentagon. >> this will be the first time, as you mentioned, that we've heard under oath from general milley, defense secretary austin and the marine general frank mckenzie who led the withdrawal efforts. democrats are likely to used the senate armed services committee to question who lost afghanistan, looking back at
the mistakes made by the u.s. military during the past 20 years. republicans see this as an opportunity to hit president biden for essentially handing afghanistan over to the taliban. the same terrorist organization that the u.s. spent a trillion dollars and nearly 3,000 american lives to crush after 9/11. both parties will press the administration not only for afghan translators, efforts to rescue them and other vulnerable afghans are continuing but the state department is now in the lead. it is notable the first of two armed services hearings today and tomorrow begin in the senate which tends to be more stayed in its line of questioning. tomorrow they face the house armed services committee. there will be questions about why those evacuations did not begin sooner, especially with the taliban making so many gains in the july time frame? the biggest questions about the withdrawal and how it was handled by the military will
center around the closure of bagram air base forcing them to use the kabul international airport that was surrounded by a densely populated capital making it harder to defend against terror attacks. then there is the errant drone strike that you mentioned. the final image from the 20 year war effort. pentagon leaders described as a righteous strike against isis after that suicide bombing killed 13 americans outside the airport. that strike killed 10 innocent people, 7 children and raises questions about the u.s. ability to carry out over the horizon counter terror strikes without any u.s. forces on the ground. finally, the questions likely to get the most heated will center around general milley's actions in the trump administration and back panel discussions with a chinese count he part and nuclear launch port kols as outlined in a recent book. >> dana: lots of questions to be answered.
>> bill: want to bring in one of the lawmakers questioning the generals. welcome to the program. good morning to you. the hearing begins in 26 minutes? what is your question, what do you want to know? >> good morning bill and dana. your opening reporting shows how many questions there are to address the fiasco in afghanistan. we've already heard from general scott miller in a closed setting a couple weeks ago. general miller is a legendary officer, former commander of delta force and the special operations command. it is clear that he did not advise the president to withdraw earlier this year. we want to hear if general mckenzie forwarded that recommendation and if it got to president biden. biden said no one recommended he leave any troops in afghanistan. furthermore president biden has said no one in the military advised him after kabul fell to extend the deadline beyond august 31 to make sure we get out all our people.
we want to explore that terrible drone strike in which 10 innocent civilians were killed because that reflects going forward in the future exactly how limited our options are for what president biden calls the so-called over the horizon capability. more along the lines of over the rainbow because our actions are so limited in afghanistan to protect this country. finally we want to talk about the afghans we did get out. we know we left behind the vast majority to use the biden administration's erms of who were approved to come and afghans committing assaults in army bases in america against american troop and what is the plan to stop that in the future. >> bill: this hearing could go for days. >> dana: we'll be paying attention and you'll be part of the question. we want to talk about that and want to get your take on one other thing. a development overnight on the big spending bills that the democrats want to push forward and the big ambitious plans that president biden had in
mind at the 3.5 trillion might be in jeopardy but that's not for lack of trying. here is the white house press secretary trying to claim that the bill would cost nothing. watch her here. >> i would say one, it's a hugely popular package. each item in itself. this package, the reconciliation package would cost zero dollars. what the case we're making here is that there needs to be agreement on the different components. broad agreement on the goals and needs to be agreement on what the revenue pay-fors are. a range of options. >> dana: this morning the "washington post" claims that it cost zero two pinocchios. what do you make about these developments and the infrastructure bill pass and perhaps not the big bill or will they find a way? >> i'm sure the 5 trillion bill costs nothing.
actually it will cost all americans. they will raise taxes on all kinds of businesses and on savings for retirement. people will have zero jobs, not going to get pay increases. may not have enough money to put kids through college or save for retirement. they will tax cigarettes. if you want to pick up a pack of smokes you'll pay higher taxes on that as well and the american people are already paying every day when they go to the grocery store or the gas pump for the rampant inflation the democrats reckless spending plans have caused and one reason they are struggling to find the votes. they understand how reckless these spending bills are and how much they'll pay for it at the election if they go forward. >> bill: what's the price? for example, when they passed obamacare they lost 63 seats. back then i don't recall a lot of people predicting 63 house seats to be lost as a result of passing healthcare. >> the first price to be paid bill is by what i won't call
them moderate democrats. there aren't any. i will call them vulnerable democrats. they'll lose their election when we take back the house of representatives and senate as well next year. >> bill: do they care more about this legislation than they do their own jobs? >> i think a lot of them recognize this legislation is not popular. that joe biden's performance in office is sinking like a stone. and that it is time for them to pump the brakes on the radical biden agenda. so in this case i think probably views of what is good policy for the country and saving their own skin may be combined. nancy pelosi has a long history as with obamacare of walking some of her members off a very short plank. >> dana: we'll be watching the hearing today and all of these developments. thank you for your time. one other thing? the history. so he mentioned 63 seats they lost. when they passed obamacare the democrats had 79 seats as an advantage and they --
>> bill: they had a 79 seat majority. >> dana: here they only have eight. a big difference. president obama much more popular at the time they passed obamacare at 52% than joe biden is at 43%. nancy pelosi had to tell the progressives we're moving forward with infrastructure. we need to get a win on the board and you won't get a vote on the reconciliation bill. >> bill: senate democratic advantage in 2008 was 14 in the senate. today 1. the reason it's one kamala harris breaks ties. it's 50/50 and the reason why we did the math the way we did there. >> dana: mexican officials say a massive caravan of over 15,000 migrants is heading our way haitians and africans. griff jenkins spoke with some of them. he is live in mexico near the border with guatemala. hi, griff. >> good morning. we're at a soccer stadium. olympic size stadium that officials had to open this
morning in anticipation for that onslaught of the 15,000 strong caravan. you see behind me where the migrants are checking in but also the national guard called in for the crowd control to make sure things remain under the civil protection that they want here as these migrants try to get their refugee status and work papers. one of the migrants we talked to was ?aimd stephenson and he has a message for president biden. >> i would like it for president biden, haiti -- >> bill: will you go back to haiti? >> no, never. never. >> there is anger towards the biden administration for sending a mixed message. you see migrants still wearing the same biden let us in t-shirts we saw in tijuana in march. they see their fellow countrymen being deported.
while they come here to show you -- we wanted to show you what a happening on the border. panama's president last week at the u.n. warned the world, sounded the alarm it was coming. listen. >> panama went from receiving 800 migrants in january of this year to receiving 30,000 migrants last month. the majority of these migrants come from the caribbean and africa. >> bill: a big concern here, dana, the threat of covid. they aren't testing the migrants. we've heard they might possibly offer either a chinese or russian vaccine to some of them. we haven't seen any sign of that yet. a lot of migrants told us they're sick and need medical treatment. >> dana: one yesterday said he needed to go to the hospital when you interviewed him. griff jenkins, thank you. >> bill: 12 past. new york the hospitals have
started firing healthcare workers who refuse to get the vaccine. in a moment how the new governor plans to address staff shortages as a result of that. >> dana: as the crises pile up for president biden his approval keeps going down. karl rove on whether he is up to the challenge. >> bill: gabby petito's family will hold their first news conference today as the search continues for brian laundrie. he hasn't been seen and parents say they don't know where he is. dog the bounty hunter is watching a tip that suggests otherwise. >> allegedly what we're hearing is two people left on the 8th, three people came in on the 6th. and two people left on the 8th. i think he has been here for sure. to create a better visitor experience. improve our workflow. attract new customers. that's when fastsigns recommended fleet graphics. yeah, and now business is rolling in. get started at fastsigns.com.
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>> mr. president, are you going down to the border? >> dana: biden dodging questions on whether he plans to visit the southern border as a steady stream of migrants crossing into the united states shows little sign of slowing down from immigration, foreign policy and economy the problems keep piling up for the president. let's bring in karl rove former white house deputy chief of staff. one of the things we have is the "wall street journal" joe biden's lose/lose week. is the white house in a pickle? >> they are in a pickle. i think our former white house colleague put his finger right on it. remember roll back the tape. it's 2009 and 2010 and they passed the stimulus bill and they passed the affordable care act and part of the theory is among democrats that by passing these big achievements they'll gain the support of the voters
in the 2010 mid-terms. instead they get wiped out. history is repeating itself. the problems with obamacare and the problems with the stimulus bill were first of all process questions. the way that they sold it, they ran the stimulus bill through quickly. they made promises about solve-ready projects. we then had the affordable care act. have to pass the bill to know what's in the bill. you can keep your plan and doctor. all that turned out to be wrong. between the sales and the substance they ran into problems. same thing is going to happen here. even if they do get it all done they'll saddle the american people with a whole bunch of new taxes and a whole bunch of new welfare benefits and i don't think it will bring the promised relief at the polls that they think it will if they get it passed. >> bill: we talked to tom cotton looking back at history and obamacare. i don't know if anyone 11 years ago predicted they would lose 63 hot seats and president obama said it was a shell
acting is the word he used. that knowing that history if you are a moderate democrat and you'll pay the price for this, what do you do? do you vote yes or do you vote no and keep your job? >> well, you hope the bipartisan infrastructure bill passes so you can say i worked hard to get something done that's actually going to build roads and ports and airports and i did it in a bipartisan fashion and hope that the voters buy it back home. if you vote for that 3.5 trillion dollar which is 5.5 trillion spending bill you will have a real problem and i'm not even certain it is likely to get passed. the margin is so slim and you've got at least two democrats in the senate who said i'm not for it. think about this. they passed it out of committee in the budget committee in the house with one democrat joining the republicans. doesn't sound like much, does it? one democrat voting with republicans is 1/third of the votes you need to sink it in the house.
more democrats have expressed concerns about the size of the bill. >> bill: are you saying they are going for it or it's not going to work? >> well, i'm not certain it is going to work because their margin is so slim in the house. if they lose three democrats in the house who vote with republicans the 3.5 trillion bill goes down. they've already had one democrat a member of the budget committee. that's only part of the house, who voted against the bill and said i don't want to send it to the floor for a vote. do you think peters of california having done that in the budget committee will turn around and vote for the bill on the floor of the house? no. they lose two more democrats on the floor of the house and that bill goes down. >> dana: i think they are going to get the infrastructure bill done. they got several republicans to vote for that in the senate. they know president biden needs a win. they realize the 3.5 trillion is possibly a political loser for them and i think speaker pelosi made this common sense decision to say to the
progressives we'll go forward with infrastructure and you all better vote for it or else all of us are going to lose. >> yeah. i think she is trying to hold their feet to the fire. look, remember out of the 1.2 trillion dollar bipartisan infrastructure bill 700 billion of it is the reauthorization of the highway trust fund which is routinely done every five years in a big bipartisan votes, republicans and democrats going back to the 19 50*s. every five years we reauthorize it. an interesting twist this year. the infrastructure bill has the senate version of the reauthorization. the house version of the reauthorization sponsored by the chairman of the committee says there shall be no additional capacity allowed in the federal interstate highway system and monies spent. that's the version that didn't make it into the bill. the senate version says yes,
the highway trust fund can continue to expand the capacity on existing federal interstates and create new interstates like in south texas we talk about creating interstate 69. so there is a big difference here. that is the democrats in the house have got in my view an extreme version of highway trust fund. think about that. no additional capacity on our interstates if the house version passed. so there is an additional twist here that is mitigating -- creating pressures. defastio hates the bipartisan infrastructure bill because he wants to put a cramp on creating more interstate highways. >> bill: i agree, super close, could go either way. >> we're both tight as particulars. ticks. >> dana: bye, karl. >> bill: moments from now the top military officials facing questions on that withdrawal
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speaking, breathing, eye problems, or muscle weakness may be a sign of a life-threatening condition. do not receive botox® cosmetic if you have a skin infection. side effects may include allergic reactions, injection site pain, headache, eyebrow, eyelid drooping, and eyelid swelling. tell your doctor about your medical history, muscle or nerve conditions, and medications including botulinum toxins as these may increase the risk of serious side effects see for yourself at botoxcosmetic.com >> bill: they're in the room. how far and how bad did the war go so wrong in the end and what happens next for those left behind and also the global war on terror? quick comment from general jack keane before the swearing in. what do you want to know today, general, and what do you think we learn? >> well, i think it is going to be a very pointed and deliberate hearing. the senators, many of them i've talked to, are certainly frustrated like americans are with the outcome that took place here and they'll press the pentagon leadership here in
terms of what actually was their thoughts as they were going through and the preparation. it will start with getting on the record that the military leadership here to include the secretary of defense were opposed to the withdrawal decision that president biden made and i think they will want to press them to see were there any conditions, contingencies that you were considering that may actually impact a successful execution of the remaining mission? and certainly the stunning collapse of the afghan government and its security forces will be a major question. why did we not anticipate that? we know the afghans took the largest amount of casualties in the last two years. once the do har agreement was signed. we couldn't provide air support while they were being attacked. the taliban rolled up a lot of territory. so there were signs of what could happen. bagram airfield certainly is a question. what to do about the security
at kabul airfield, evacuation itself. the loss of our soldiers and could have been done better. those will all be front and center. >> bill: chairman reid is reeding his opening statements. >> i think it is equally important that this committee takes a step back and examines the broader mission that shaped the outcome with faced today. throughout the summer and the events surrounding it did not happen in a vacuum. the path that led to this moment was paved with years of mistakes from our pivot to iraq, failure to handle pakistan support for the taliban, to the flawed agreement signed by president trump. we have overseen chapters of a war that spanned four presidential administrations, democratic and republican and we owe the people an honest accounting. i hope the hearing will be
frank and searching so future generations of americans won't repeat our mistakes. secretary lloyd austin, secretary of defense and general frank mckenzie. i welcome each of you and thank you for your many years of service. i also want to commend and thank our military men and women for their heroic efforts to evacuate more than 124,000 american citizens, afghan special immigrant visa applicants and other at-risk afghans in chaotic and perilous conditions. we especially honor the grave am servicemen and women killed and wounded while protecting those seeking safety. so how did we get here? there are countless decisions and factors that could be pointed to but i would highlight a few that paved the way. earlier in the war we did achieve our original counter
terrorism objective of degrading al qaeda and that mission -- while the u.s. presence in afghanistan drew down significantly over the last few years, the lack of defined strategy continued to erode the mission. one of the clearest inflection point was the ill-fated decision was to go to war in iraq just as we began to achieve momentum in afghanistan, bush administration's invasion of iraq threw critical resources, troops and focus away from the afghan theater. our best opportunity in afghanistan was squandered and never able to get back on track. throughout the war we were also unsuccessful in pakistan's support of taliban. even though we cooperated on mission the taliban enjoyed sanctuary in pakistan to regroup. it can be tied to the flawed do
har agreement that president trump signed in 2020. this deal negotiated between the trump administration and the taliban without allies or even the afghan government present promised the end of us in afghanistan and contractors. with virtually no stipulations. the taliban with momentum on there and no incentives used the final year of the trump administration to escalate violence and begin its fateful march toward kabul. despite colossal effort in all add min itions we were not able to build an afghan government or a force capable of defeating the taliban. they fought bravely in the face of massive casualties but faced with the loss of american
military support and corruption they were able to stand on their own against taliban forces. secretary austan, general milley, general mckenzie you have each led troops in afghanistan and advised the nation's top leaders and played significant roles throughout this war and i hope you are forthcoming in your answers today. to begin i would ask that you provide an accounting of the intelligence and other key assessments that factored into your judgments about the viability of the afghan government and afghan forces and how those trends changed over time. i would like to know any lessons you've identified how we can more effectively work with, by and through partner nations in the future. i would like to understand what factors you attribute to the taliban's success and whether we miss educators and warnings of their imminent takeover. while we have transitioned our military from afghanistan after achieving our counter terrorism objectives we must continue to
insure that afghanistan can never again be used as a base of terrorists to conduct operations against the united states and our allies. we must remain vigilant about these threats and sure to establish an effective counter terrorism architecture moving forward. i would ask that you update the committee on your plans for over the horizon counter terrorism operations. the united states faces new and evolving threats around the world. we must first understand what went wrong to our mission in afghanistan and learn from those missteps. we owe it to the american people. i want to thank you again for being here this morning and i look forward to your testimony. now before i turn to the ranking member for the benefit of my colleagues, because we have two rounds of open testimony and a closed session following, i will strictly enforce the five-minute limit allowed for each member. i intend to recess at 1:00 p.m. for lunch and promptly resume
at 1:30. i would remind our colleagues there will be classified briefing immediately following the open session and the office of senate security. again before i turn to ranking member i want to note that the rules of the committee state that witness testimony should be sent to the committee 48 hours in advance. and it is customary that at the latest testimony arrive the afternoon before the hearing. i am disappointed that the statements of the witnesses were not sent to the committee until late last evening given senators and staff very little time to review. i hope when these witnesses appear again before this committee they will follow the committee rules and customs. now let me turn to ranking member inhoff. >> thank you. let's make sure everyone understand the five minute limit doesn't affect opening statements. let me state a little bit stronger the statement that was made by our chairman that we
should -- there is no reason in the world they waited until late last night to send this information to us. all these members, they want to be well informed and they didn't have that opportunity. i want to begin by expressing my gratitude to our service members and veterans, men and women in uniform bravely volunteered to go into harm's way for one reason, to keep their fellow americans safe. they represent our very best. especially want to recognize those who made the ultimate sacrifice and their families on august 26 we were reminded so painfully of what we ask our troops and their families to do. they laid it all on the line for this country. those 13 men and women died trying to evacuate their fellow americans and at-risk afghans from kabul under extremely
difficult and dangerous circumstances so i want to be perfectly clear, the frustration on this committee about the chaotic and deadly withdrawal from afghanistan is not and should never be directed towards our troops. it was president biden and his advisors who put them in that situation. even worse, this was avoidable. everything that happened was foreseen. my colleagues on this committee and on the commanders in charge, we saw it coming so we were here today to understand what happened and why that advice was ignored. general mckenzie you said in february before the president decided to fully withdraw from afghanistan quote, you have to take a conditioned-based approach. that you expressed your
concern, quote, about, quote, about actions that the taliban had taken up until this point meaning that the taliban was not constraining al qaeda as it had agreed to do so under the conditions-based agreement it signed with the trump administration, that it was a condition-based statement and position. around the same time general miller, who was then the commander of the u.s. forces afghanistan advised his chain of command to keep approximately 2,500 troops in the country. he warned that the taliban might otherwise take over. general mckenzie, you offered a similar warning when you last testified before this committee in april right after the president made his decision to withdraw. you said quote, my concern is the ability of the afghan military to hold the ground
that they are now on without the support that they have been used to for many years. throughout this spring we saw many districts quickly fall to the taliban, many without firing a shot. this is why i urged president biden in june to rethink his approach and maintain a small force in afghanistan in order to prevent the collapse we ultimately saw. it was also why the members of this committee on both sides of the aisle spent months urging the administration to evacuate americans and our afghan partners sooner. but president biden and his advisors didn't listen to his combat commander, he didn't listen to congress, and he failed to anticipate what all of us knew would happen. so in august we all witnessed
the horror of the president's own making. afghans died as they desperately gripped the departing flights, the taliban is in a stronger position than it had been in 9/11, the terrorists members are now senior government positions, we went from we will never negotiate with terrorists to we must negotiate with terrorists. you know, in the years i've been here we've heard over and over again you don't negotiate with terrorists and now it's required. worls t of all, 13 brave americans were killed in the evacuation effort. three days later the biden administration said it was struck and isis operative. in fact it killed 10 afghan civilians including seven children and then president
biden concluded that the drawdown by doing the unthinkable. he left the americans behind. the men and women who served the uniform, their families and the american people deserve answers. how did this avoidable disaster happen? why were americans left behind? president biden's decision to withdraw has expanded the threat of terrorism and increased the likelihood of an attack on the homeland. the administration is telling the american people that the plan to deal with these threats is something called over the horizon counter terrorism. and that we do these types of operations elsewhere in the world. that's misleading at best and dishonest at worst. there is no plan. we have no reliable partners on the ground. we have no bases nearby. the afghan government is now led by terrorists with long
ties to al qaeda and we're at the mercy of pakistan government to get into the afghan airspace. even if we can get there, we can't strike al qaeda in afghanistan because we're worried about what the taliban will do to the americans who are still there. and americans are still there. the administration needs to be honest because the -- because of president biden's dishonest decision the terrorist threat to american families is rising significantly while our ability to deal with these threats has declined decidedly. we will have another hearing with expert witnesses on thursday, just two days from now. we understand the undersecretary of defense has agreed to testify in that
hearing. so today is really just a start. so in conclusion, i would just like to say this. president biden made a strategic decision to leave afghanistan, which resulted in the death of 13 u.s. service members, the deaths of hundreds of afghan civilians including women and children, that's what terrorists do. and left american citizens surrounded by the very terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and they are still there. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you very much, senator inhoff. secretary austin and chairman millie, the dohar agreement -- excuse me. we want to give you an opportunity to have opening statements as i've been reminded.
so general general, you are recognized. >> chairman reed, members of this committee thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss our recent drawdown and evacuation operations in afghanistan. i'm pleased to be joined by generals milley and mckenzie who i know will be able to provide you with additional context. i would like to make a few points before turning it over to you and to them. first i want to say how incredibly proud i am of the men and women of the u.s. armed forces. who conducted themselves with tremendous skill and professionalism throughout the war, drawndown and evacuation. over the course of our nation's longest war, 2,461 of our fellow americans made the ultimate sacrifice. along with more than 20,000 who bear the wounds of war some that can't be seen on the
outside. and we can discuss and debate the decisions, the policies and turning points since april of this year when the president made clear his intentions to end our involvement in this war. we can debate the decisions over 20 years that led us to this point. but i know that you agree with me that one thing not open to debate is the courage and compassion of our service members who, along with their families, served and sacrificed to insure that our homeland would never again be attacked the way it was on 9/11. i had the chance to speak with many of them during my trip to the gulf region a few weeks ago including the marines who lost 11 of their teammates in kabul on august 26th. i've never been more humbled and inspired. they're proud of what they accomplished and the lives they saved. in such a short span of time.
in fact, i would like to talk to you a little bit about that issue of time. the reason that our troops were able to get there so quickly is because we planned for just such a contingency. we began thinking about the possibilities of a non-combatant evacuation as far back as this spring. by late april two weeks after the president's decision military planners had crafted a number of evacuation scenarios. in mid-may i ordered central command to make preparations for potential need. two weeks later i began pre-position edforss in the region to include three infantry battalions on the 10th of august we ran another exercise around the non-combatant evacuation scenario. we wanted to be ready and we were. by the time the state department called for leading elements of the 24th marine expedition unit were already on the ground in kabul. before that weekend was out
another 3,000 or so ground troops had arrived including elements of the 82nd airborne. let's be clear, those first two days were difficult. we all watched with alarm the images of afghans rushing the runway and our aircraft. we all remember the scenes of confusion outside the airport. but within 48 hours our troops restored order and process began to take hold. our soldiers, airmen, and marines in partnership with our allies and partners in our state department colleagues secured the gates, took control of airport operations and set up a processing system for the tens of thousands of people they would be manifesting onto airplanes. they and our commanders exceeded all expectations. we planned to execute between 70 -- he planned to evacuate between 70 and 80,000 people.
they evacuated more than 124,000. we planned to move between 5 and 9,000 people per day. on average they moved slightly between more than 7,000 per day. on military aircraft alone we flew more than 387 missions averaging 23 per day. at the height of this operation an aircraft was taking off every 45 minutes. and not a single mission was missed for any problems. it was the largest airlift conducted in u.s. history and it was executed in 17 days. was it perfect? of course not. we moved so many people so quickly out of kabul that we ran into capacity and screening problems at intermediate staging bases outside afghanistan. we're still working to get americans out who wish to leave. we did not get out all of our afghan allies enrolled in a
special immigrant visa program. we take that seriously and that's why we're working across the interagencies to continue facilitating their departure. even with no military presence on the ground that part of our mission is not over. and tragically, lives were lost. several afghans killed climbing aboard an aircraft on that first day. 13 brave u.s. service members and dozens of afghan civilians killed in a terrorist attack on the 26th and we took as many as 10 innocent lives in a drone strike on the 29th. non-combatant evacuations remain among the most challenging military operations even in the best of circumstances. and the circumstances in august were anything but ideal. extreme heat, landlocked country, no government, highly dynamic situation on the ground, and an active, credible
and lethal terrorist threat. in a span of two days from the 13th to the 15th of august, we went from working alongside a democratically elected, long-time partner government to coordinating warily with a long-time enemy. we operated in a deeply dangerous environment and it proved a lesson in pragmatism and professionalism. we learned a lot of other lessons, too. about how to turn an air force base to an international airport overnight. how to rapidly screen, process and manifest large numbers of people. nothing like this has ever been done before and no other military in the world could have pulled it off and i think that's crucial. now i know that members of this committee will have questions on many things such as why we turned over bagram airfield and how real is our over the horizon capability and why didn't we start evacuations sooner and why didn't we stay
longer to get more people out? so let me take each in turn. retaining bagram would have meant putting 5,000 u.s. troops in harm's way to operate and defend it. it would have contributed little to the mission that we've been assigned and that was to protect and defend the embassy which was some 30 miles away. that distance from kabul rendered bagram of little value in the evacuation. staying at bagram for counter terrorism purposes meant staying at war in afghanistan, something the president made clear he would not do. as for over the horizon operations, when we use that term we refer po to* assets and target analysis that come from outside the country in which the operation occurs. these are effective and fairly common operations. indeed, just days ago we conducted one such strike in syria eliminating a senior al
qaeda figure. over the horizon operations are difficult but absolutely possible. and the intelligence that supports them comes from a variety of sources and not just u.s. boots on the ground. when we started evacuations we offered input to the state department's decision mindful of their concerns that moving too soon might actually cause the very collapse of the afghan government that we all wanted to avoid. and that moving too late would put our people and operations at greater risk. as i said, the fact that our troops were on the ground so quickly is due in large part to our planning and pre-positioning of forces. as for the mission's end, my judgment remains that extending beyond the end of august would have greatly imperiled our people and our mission. the taliban made clear that their cooperation would end on
the first of september. and as you know, we face grave and growing threats from isis-k. staying longer than we did would have made it more dangerous for our people and would not have significantly changed a number of evacuees we could get out. as we consider these tactical issues today we must also ask ourselves some equally tough questions about the wider war itself. pause to think about the lessons that we have learned over the past 20 years. did we have the right strategy? did we have too many strategies? did we put too much faith in our ability to build effective afghan institutions, an army, air force, police force, and government ministries? we helped build a state but we could not forge a nation. the fact that the afghan army that we and our partners trained simply melted away in many cases without firing a shot took us a by surprise and it would be dishonest to claim
otherwise. we need to consider some uncomfortable truths. that we didn't fully comprehend the depth of corruption and poor leadership in the senior ranks. we didn't grasp the damaging effect of frequent and unexplained rotations by president ghani of his commanders. that we didn't anticipate the snowball effect caused by the deals that the taliban commanders struck with local leaders in the wake of the doha agreement and that the do ha agreement had a negative effect on afghan soldier and failed to grasp there was only so much for which and for whom many of the afghan forces would fight. we provided the military with aircraft and skills to use them. over the years they often fought bravely. tens of thousands of afghan soldiers and police died. in the end we couldn't provide them with the will to win.
at least not all of them. as a veteran of that war, i am personally reckoning with all of that. i hope as i said at the outset we do not allow a debate about how this war ended to cloud our pride in the way that our people fought it. they prevented another 9/11, they showed extraordinary courage and compassion in the war's last days, and they made lasting progress in afghanistan that the taliban will find difficult to reverse and that the international community should work hard to preserve. now our service members and civilians face a new mission. helping these afghan evacuees move on to new lives and new places. they are performing magnificently as well. i spent time with some of them yesterday. i know that you share my profound gratitude and respect for their courage and professionalism and i
appreciate the support this committee continues to provide them and their families. thank you. >> thank you, mr. secretary. general milley, i believe you have a statement. >> chairman reed, ranking member inhoff, thank you for the opportunity to be here to discuss afghanistan. as you mentioned up front, we submitted matters for the record, lengthy statement of this cutdown oral version and i know it got too late. during the past 20 years, the men and women of the united states military along with our allies and partners fought the taliban, brought osama bin laden to justice, denied al qaeda sanctuary and protected our homeland for two consecutive decades. over 800,000 of us in uniform served in afghanistan. most importantly, 2,461 of us gave the ultimate sacrifice. while 20,698 of us were wounded
in action and countless others of us suffer the invisible wounds of war. there is no doubt in my mind that our efforts prevented an attack on the homeland from afghanistan which was our core original mission. and everyone that served in that war should be proud of your service because it mattered. beginning in 2011, we stead lie drew down our troop numbers consolidated and closed bases and retrogradeed equipment from afghanistan. at the peak in 2011, we had 97,000 u.s. troops alongside 41,000 nato troops in afghanistan. 10 years later, when ambassador signed the doha agreement on 29 february, 2020, the united states had 12,600 u.s. troops with 8,000 nato and 10,500 contractors.
this has been a 10-year multi-administration drawdown, not a 19-month or 19-day. under the agreement the u.s. with begin to withdraw its forces contingent upon taliban meeting certain conditions, which would lead to a political agreement between the taliban and the government of afghanistan. there were seven conditions applicable to the taliban and eight conditions applicable to the united states. while the taliban did not attack u.s. forces, which was one of the conditions, it failed to fully honor any -- any other condition under the dohar agreement and perhaps most importantly for u.s. national security the taliban has never renounced al qaeda or broke its affiliation with them. we the united states adhered to every condition.
in the fall of 2020, my analysis was that an accelerated withdrawal without meeting specific and necessary conditions risks losing the substantial gains made in afghanistan damaging u.s. worldwide credibility and could precipitate a general collapse of the afghan government and military resulting in a complete taliban takeover or general civil war. that was a year ago. my assessment remained consistent throughout. based on my advice and the advice of the commanders, then secretary of defenses per submitted a memorandum on november 9 recommending to maintain u.s. forces at a level between 2500 and 4500 in afghanistan until conditions were met before further reduction. two days later, on november 11
i received an unclassified signed order directing the united states military to withdrawal forces from afghanistan no later than 15 january, 2021. after further discussions regarding the risks associated with such a withdrawal, the order was rescinded. on 17 november we received a new order to reduce levels to 2500 plus enabling forces no later than 15 january. when president biden was inaugurated there were approximately 3500 u.s. troops, 5400 nato troops and 6300 contractors in afghanistan with a specified task of train, advise, and assist. along with a small contingent of counter terrorism forces. the strategic situation at inauguration was stalemate. the biden administration through the national security council process conducted a rigorous interagency review of
the situation in afghanistan in february, march, and april. during this process, the views of the joint chiefs of staff, all of us, centcom commander, general mckenzie, general miller and myself were all given serious consideration by the administration. we provided a broad range of options and our assessment of their potential outcomes. the cost/benefit, risk to force and mission were evaluated against the national security objectives of the united states. on 14 april, president announced his decision and the u.s. military received a change of mission to retrograde all u.s. military forces, maintain a small contingency force of 600 to 700 to protect the embassy in kabul until the department of state could get support and assist turkey to maintain the karzai international airport and transition the u.s. military to
an over the horizon security force assistance. it is clear, it is obvious the war in afghanistan did not end on the terms we wanted with the taliban now in power in kabul. although the it was the largest air evacuation in history he vaf waiting 124,000 people it came at an incredible cost of 11 marines, one soldier and navy corpsmen. those 13 gave their lives so people they never met will have an opportunity to live in freedom. and we must remember that the taliban was and remains a terrorist organization and they still have not broken ties with al qaeda. i have no illusions who we are dealing with. it remains to be seen whether or not the taliban can consolidate power or if the country will further fracture into civil war. but we must continue to protect the united states of america
and its people from terrorist attacks coming from afghanistan. a reconstituted al qaeda or isis with aspirations to attack the united states is a very real possibility. and those conditions to include activity in ungoverned spaces could present themselves in the next 12 to 36 months. that mission will be much harder now but not impossible. and we'll continue to protect the american people. strategic decisions have strategic consequences. over the course of four presidents, 12 secretaries of defense, 7 chairmen, 10 centcom commanders, 20 military -- 20 years of congressional oversight there are many lessons to be learned. two specific to the military we need to take a look at did we mirror image the development of the national army and the second, the rapid collapse,
unprecedented rapid collapse of the afghan military in only 11 days in august. however, one lesson must never be forgotten. every soldier, sailor, airmen and marine who served there in afghanistan for 20 consecutive years, protected our country from attack by terrorists and for that they should be forever proud and we should be forever grateful. thank you, chairman and if i could i know that there are some issues in the media that are of deep concern to many members on the committee and with your permission i would like to address those. i have submitted memoranda for the committee to take a look at. >> you may proceed. >> mr. chairman, i have served this nation for 42 years. i spent years in combat and i buried a lot of my troops who died while defending this country. my loyalty to this nation, its people, and the constitution hasn't changed and will never change as long as i have a
breath to give. my loyalty is absolute and i will not turn my back on the fallen. with respect to the chinese calls, i routinely communicated with my counterpart general lee with the knowledge and coordination of civilian oversight. i am specifically directed to communicate with the chinese by department of defense guidance, the policy dialogue system. these military to military communications at the highest level are critical to the security of the united states in order to deconflict military actions, manage crisis and prevent war between great powers that are armed with the world's most deadly weapons. the calls on 30 october and 8 january were coordinated before and after with secretary esper and the interagency. the specific purpose of the october and january calls were
to generate -- were generated by concerning intelligence which caused us to believe the chinese were worried about an attack on them by the united states. i know, i am certain, that president trump did not intend to attack the chinese. and it is my directed responsibility and it was my directed responsibility by the secretary to convey that intent to the chinese. my task at that time was to de-escalate my message again was consistent, stay calm, steady, and de-escalate. we are not going to attack you. at the secretary of defense recommendation i made a call to general lee. eight people were in the call with me. on 31 december the chinese requested another call with me.
the deputy assistant secretary of defense for asia pacific policy helped coordinate my call which was then scheduled for 8 january and he made a preliminary call on 6 january. 11 people attended that call with me and read-outs of this call were distributed to the interagency that same day. shortly after my call ended with general lee, i personally informed both secretary of state pompeo and white house chief of staff meadows about the call among other topics. soon after that, i attended a meeting with acting secretary miller where i briefed him on the call. later that day on 8 january speaker of the house pelosi called me to inquire about the president's ability to launch nuclear weapons. i sought to assure her that nuclear launch is governed by a very specific and deliberate process. she was concerned and made very -- 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. there are processes, protocols and procedures in place and i repeatedly assured her that there was no chance of an illegal, unauthorized or accidental launch. by presidential directive and secretary of defense directives, the chairman is part of the process to insure the president is fully informed when determining the use of the world's deadliest weapons. by law i am not in the chain of command and i know that. however, by presidential directive and d.o.d. instruction i am in the chain of communication to fulfill my legal statutory role as the president's primary military advisor. after the speaker pelosi call i convened a short meeting in my office with key members of my staff to refresh all of us on
the procedures which we practice daily at the action officer level. additionally i immediately informed acting secretary of defense miller of speaker pelosi's phone call. at no time was i attempting to change or influence the process. , usurp authority or insert myself in the chain of command. but i am expected, i am required, to give my advice and insure that the president is fully informed on military matters. i am submitting for the record a more declared and unclassified memoranda you have, although late. i welcome a walk threw on every event and i would be happy to talk about the intelligence that drove these calls. i am happy to make available any email, phone logs, memoranda, witnesses or anything else you need to understand these events. my oath is to support the constitution of the united states of america against all
enemies, foreign and domestic and i will never turn my back on that oath. i firmly believe civilian control of the military is essential to the health of this republic and committed to insuring that the military stays clear of domestic politics. i look forward to your questions and thank you, chairman, for the extra time. >> thank you, general mckenzie. i understand you do not have a statement, is that correct? >> i will waive my statement to get us back on schedule. >> thank you very much. secretary austin, the dohar agreement represents direct negotiations with terrorists. not only negotiations but an agreement with them that excluded the afghan government and the allies who have been fighting with us now since 9/11. it set a fixed departure date
with conditions as indicated were not really followed consistently by the taliban. as you considered in april what to do, did the intelligence suggest to you that renegeing on the departure of the troops would lead to significant attacks against american and allied military forces? >> chairman, my recollection the intelligence was clear that if we did not leave in accordance with that agreement the taliban would recommence attacks on our forces. >> and they would include any other means they could use to attack american forces. >> that's correct. >> so the choice was in many respects were we going to incur
additional casualties indeaf niftily in afghanistan, is that -- that's one way to look at it? >> that's correct, chairman. you certainly would have to do -- take additional measures to defend yourself if the taliban recome men'sed their defensive operations against us. >> did the dohar agreement, was there a sense that even though it was months away that the united states was leaving since we had agreed to leave? >> i will let frank talk to the details. my assessment is yes, senator, it did affect the morale of the afghan security forces. >> it's my judgment the doha agreement did negatively reflect the performance of the afghan forces that the government of afghanistan was
required to take as part of that agreement. >> one of the critical issues was the agreement to withdraw contractors, which are basically the engine that maintains the air force of afghanistan and many other logistical operations. and that was just as critical as the troop departure i would assume? >> chairman, it was. we had plans in place to try to conduct those operations from over the horizon. they were not as effective as having contractors on the ground on site with the aircraft. >> the momentum appeared to be shifting to the taliban. indications were their penetration in parts of the country in the northern sections particularly which traditionally opposed the taliban, the northern alliance,
but that started to be -- to be fair that started long before doha. some commentators suggested that since 2014 the taliban have been surrounding provision capitals, insinuating themselves into the politics of the local communities, striking bargains. is that your impression, too, general mckenzie? >> sir, it is a good assessment from 2014 on the taliban did pursue that strategy and had some success. the government of afghanistan also had success holding onto to population centers but the taliban pursued a strategy and had some success with it. >> now, general -- secretary austin, you did provide your best military advice to the president regarding the situation in afghanistan and that has been recounted several times. there were multiple meetings
and he refused advice from many different quarters. do you feel that you had the opportunity to make your advice very clear? >> i do, chairman. as i've said before, i always keep my advice to the president confidential but i am very much satisfied that we had a thorough policy review and i believe that all of the parties had an opportunity to provide input and that input was received. >> thank you very much. senator inhoff. >> thank you, mr. chairman. it was two weeks ago that we had a closed classified hearing. we had general miller's recommendation at that time. let me first of all just mention that during the confirmation process you committed -- i'm speaking now
to general mckenzie and general milley, to giving your honest and personal views to this committee even if those views were -- differed from those of the administration and i'm confident that you will be doing that. during this hearing that we had, we -- it was emphasized to us from general miller that we -- that he was recommending the 2500 troops in afghanistan. now, we didn't receive the documentation from your offices, i say to the witnesses today, until actually 10:35 last night. so there really wasn't time to get into a lot of the details but i would ask general mckenzie, did you agree to the recommendation that general miller had two weeks ago? >> senator, again i won't share
my personal recommendation to the president but i will give you my honest opinion and my honest opinion and view shaped my recommendation. i recommended we maintain 5,200 troops in afghanistan and recommended earlier in the fall of 2020 that we maintain 4,500 at that time. those are my personal views. i also have a view that the withdrawal of those forces would lead to the collapse of the afghan military forces and eventually the afghan government. >> understand that. general milley i assume you agree with that in terms of the recommendation of 2500? >> what i said in my opening statement and the memoranda that i wrote back in the fall of 2020 remain consistent and i do agree with that. >> this committee is unsure whether or not general miller's recommendation ever got to the president. obviously there are conversations with the president but i would like to ask, even though general mckenzie i think you have all made the statement, did you
talk to the president about general miller's recommendation? >> sir, i was present when that discussion occurred. i'm confident that the president heard all the recommendations and listened to them very thoughtfully. >> one of the recommendations that was made by the three of you would be the recommendation that was made by general miller two weeks ago? during the august 18th interview on abc george stephanopolous asked president biden whether u.s. troops would stay beyond august 31st if there was still americans to evacuate. president biden responded, this is a quote, if there is american citizens left, we are going to stay to get them all out. this didn't happen. the president biden's decision resulted in all of the troops leaving but the american citizens are still trying to
get out. how many american citizens is it your opinion are still there? just go down the line each one of you. >> senator, i would defer to the state department for that assessment. that's a dynamic process. they've been contacting the civilians that are in afghanistan and again, i would defer to them for definitive numbers. >> go ahead. others? >> same as the secretary just said. there were numbers at the beginning of this whole process with the f-77 report out of the embassy. and we know we took out almost 6,000 i guess it is american citizens but how many remain -- >> do all of you agree that
secretary of state blinken, when he made his analysis as to how many people would be here -- would still be there. you talked about the 10,000 to 15,000 citizens left behind, and the -- and then evacuated some 6,000, that would mean a minimum of 4,000 would be -- would still be there now. would anyone disagree with that? by your silence i assume you agree. >> i have no -- i don't -- i personally don't believe there are 4,000 american citizens still left in afghanistan but i cannot confirm or deny that, senator. >> you think the secretary of state was wrong in his analysis? >> just for the record, the chair and the vice chair/ranking member have each abided by the five-minute rule. fair is fair. >> thank you, mr. chairman and
thank you secretary austin, general milley and general mckenzie for being here this morning and secretary austin and general milley, thank you for your effort to put into some historical perspective what happened in afghanistan and for recognizing the incredible service and sacrifice of the troops who served there. general milley, in a hearing before the senate appropriations subcommittee on defense in june, i explicitly raised concerns about the plight of at-risk afghans due to our withdrawal and i asked about the department as plans to evacuate them. you indicated today that you thought we might be facing the kind of desperate situation that we saw in kabul. but your response at that time was that quote, lots of planning was ongoing and this
is in quotes and the state department was leading efforts pertaining to evacuating our afghan partners and you explicitly told the committee in your professional opinion you did not see saigon 1975 in afghanistan. so i'm just trying to figure out why we missed from a public perception it appears that we didn't anticipate the rapid fall of afghanistan and kabul and the rise of the taliban in the way we saw it play out on television. and what did we miss? >> i think, senator, we absolutely missed the rapid 11-day collapse of the afghan military and the collapse of their government. i think there was a lot of intelligence that clearly indicated that after we
withdrew, that it was a likely outcome of a collapse of the military and a collapse of the government. most of those intelligence assessments indicated that would occur late fall, perhaps early winter. kabul might hold until next spring. depends when the intel assessment was written. the assessments that you would see general collapse of the government and the military. while we were there, though, up through 31 august, i don't -- there is no intel assessment that says the government will collapse and military will collapse in 11 days that i'm aware of. i think i've read pretty much all of them. even as late as the 3rd of august, another one on the 8th of august they're still talking weeks, perhaps months, etc. general mckenzie can talk to his on views on the same topic. he gave his assessments at the same time and although general miller did in many, many
assessments say rapid, fast, hard for collapse, he also centered into the october and november time frame as opposed to august. >> how do we avoid that happening again? >> the key, senator, that we missed frankly we had some indicators but not the full assessment of leadership, morale and will. there were some units. i don't want to say negative things about these guys. the 60,000 or 70,000 afghans that were killed over the years, but the vast majority put their weapons down and melted away in a very, very short period of time. it has to do with will, leadership and i think we still need to try to figure out exactly why that was. i have some suggestions but i am not settled on them yet. we clearly missed that. i think one of the key factors we missed it for we pulled our advisors out three years ago. when you pull advisors out of
the units you can no longer assess things like leadership and well. we can count the machine guns and everything else and count those from space and the intel assets but you can't measure the human heart with a machine. you have to be there. >> thank you. secretary austin i'm about to run out of time so i may -- you may want to respond to this on the next round but one of the challenges with getting special immigrant visa applicants out of afghanistan has -- this wasn't just a problem in the evacuation. this has been a historic problem that has gone over years, has been having the documents that show they actually served with our military and d.o.d. has been cite evidence as the major problem in getting those documents. so again, how do we make sure that doesn't happen again in some future conflict where we need our partners on the ground to serve alongside of our
military members? i'm out of time so -- hopefully you will answer that. thank you. >> thank you very much, senator. senator. >> chairman reed before i ask my questions i have an objection. we've been having hearings in a classified setting on this. our first public hearing. but i'm sorry, senator cain has had to step away but in a previous hearing he expressed frustration in various hearings he had been to and a frustration that i shared that when the state department is here and we ask them a question they say you have to ask the defense department that and now today again defense department people are before us and a question was asked and the answer to senator inhoff was well, you have to ask the state department that. senator cain gently but fatherly sent a message to the
administration at our last classified hearing that we need to cut that out. that members of the defense department need to be ready for the questions that we have asked and that we are going to ask and so i object to the continuation of that in this hearing today. while i'm at it i would also point out general milley i appreciate your statement and i've read it and i understand what you are trying to say. but further than what you mentioned, the allegation is that you told combatant commanders to report back to you. our clear understanding is that they are not in the chain of -- you are not in their chain of command that they report directly to the commander-in-chief through the secretary and so to the extent that you told them to report to you, they were not in your
chain of command. now let me see if i can get one question in here having taken two minutes to mention a very important objection. general milley, in the fall of 2020 you said an accelerated withdrawal would risk substantial gains and damage u.s. credibility. i want to ask our witnesses about u.s. credibility. on july 8 president biden said the likelihood there will be taliban overrung everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely. we you now know he was advised this might happen. turns out it was completely untrue the statement on july 8th. later in july the president of the united states, president biden says i trust the capacity of the afghan military. better trained and better equipped and more competent in terms of conducting the war.
president biden was wrong on that. we told our interpreters, our drivers, our friends, the people who had had our backs during this entire period of time that we would not abandon them and that's exactly what we did. and in an interview that's already been referred to on network news, president biden says and i quote, if there is american citizens left, we are going to stay and get them all out. two days later, the president of the united states said we'll stay and get them out. the president of the united states, our commander-in-chief did exactly the opposite. now i think you were right, general milley, when you advised that our credibility would be damaged. our credibility has been gravely damaged, has it not,
general milley? >> i think that our credibility with allies and partners around the world and with adversaries is being intensely reviewed by them to see which way this is going to go and i think the damage is one word that could be used, yes. >> and secretary austin, no question that this sends a disastrous message to china and russia. what message does it send to our nato allies and our allies around the world about not only our credibility but our national resolve? >> thanks, senator. what the world witnessed is the united states military evacuating 124,000 people out of a contested environment in 17 days. >> you testified our withdrawal
and evacuation was a great accomplishment. what about our credibility? >> as i engage my counterparts, i think our credibility remains solid. clearly, senator, there will be people who question things going forward but i would say that, you know, the united states military is one that -- the united states of america, people place great trust and confidence in. relationships are things we have to work on continuously and we understand that and will continue to do that. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i'm also very grateful to our service members who committed so much over the last 20 years and i do want to thank president biden for taking the necessary steps to stop and end an endless war, something that many of us have pushed for over the last decade. there is obviously still a lot to do both overseas and here at
home such as insuring that afghan refugees are treated respectfully and responded on the bases such as insuring that they can be transitioned into their new lives in the united states. we also have the responsibility to our troops and to all americans to make sure we have a complete picture of what we did accomplish and happened over the last 20 years across all the administrations. we have to look back so that we can do better when we look forward. one way to do better is to make sure congress maintains and fulfills its constitutional responsibility and we have to put back into the hands of congress the right and responsibility to declare war. what started as a mission to defeat al qaeda in afghanistan and the perceived threat in iraq expanded to 20 years of war in multiple countries with hundreds of thousands of lives lost and trillions of dollars spent. congress needs to take back this responsibility for the benefit of our service members.
congress must set clear and defined goals for the use of military force abroad and place a limit and against whom we can continue military action without a new authorization in order to finally put a stop to endless wars and prevent them in the future. second there should be a comprehensive rigorous and objective audit on the war over 20 years. we spent lots of money and lost lives. i commend the special inspector general for afghanistan reconstruction nor its oversight of the afghanistan reconstruction. but i do have questions beyond that. first general milley in your testimony you said and you mentioned that there are many lessons to be learned. what did you mean by that statement? >> i have think senator, thank you. i think there is a series of strategic lessons to be learned and i would echo some of the
ones that senator reed mentioned early on. specific military lessons we have to take a hard look at. the united states military was tasked under the 2002 agreement to train, man and equip the afghan army, the germans were required to train men and equip the afghan poils. as we built that army and all of its components i think that one error we may have made over time is we made them too dependent on technology and our capabilities. we didn't take in the cultural aspects as much as we should have and we mirror imaged. i think that's a big lesson. we will have to take a hard look at it. when you pull contractors, you pull troops, i think that's one of many contributing factors to the rapid collapse. a big lesson. another one is the intel lesson we talked about in the military realm as well as intelligence community realm. a lot of other lessons. legitimacy and corruption of the government. those are all out there as to why the government collapsed
had as rapidly as it did. there is a specific set of military lessons we need to pull out within the military. >> i have also read various opinion pieces. i know everyone here is deeply disturbed that the trained afghan military did not perform as expected and i would like your thoughts if they had performed as expected, would we have seen a prolonged civil war? what is your estimate of what the impact of them actually fighting would have been? >> my estimate is if they had, you know, performed always we expected them to perform the government would still there be, they would have probably lost significant chunks of territory but kabul would be there and some of the major capitals. i would defer that. you get a more granular view on that from general mckenzie. >> general mckenzie. >> had the afghan military fought we would have probably seen the kabul bow, the
approaches to kabul get into the winter under the control of the government of afghanistan. a lot of the outlying provinces would not have been. it wasn't so much the collapse of the afghan military but the collapse of the afghan government as large. they happened together and they were mreeftly linked together. when you consider one i think you have to think about the other. >> additionally in retrospect one of the areas of debate has been whether we should have started our evacuation earlier. and i recognize that the kabul government asked us not to start our evacuation early. can you speak to what you now know and whether it would have been smarter or more effective if we had started evacuating personnel a year or six months or any time in advance? >> could i ask the senator? >> i didn't realize my time was expired. i'll submit that for the record. >> thank you very much. senator fisher, please. >> thank you, mr. chairman i would like to thank our military men and women for
their dedication to this country, for the sacrifices that and their families in any theater of war and make every day for us. but our exit from afghanistan was a disaster and the missteps that are already outlined had consequences that struck close to home. as a nebraskaian, one of the corporal from there was one of the 13 service members killed in action and we should not forget. we have the policy discussions here today that let us remember the human sacrifice. we also left american citizens behind. general milley, in your written testimony you state a withdrawal would increase risks of regional instability, the security of pakistan and its nuclear arsenals, a global rise in violent extremist
organizations, our global credibility with allies and partners would suffer, and a narrative of abandoning the afghans would become widespread. would you agree that all of these things have happened over the last eight weeks are currently happening? >> i think in the main, yes, senator, most of those are probably happening right now. >> and i hope we see in the future military advice having more consideration by the administration on what will happen from what you and general mckenzie have said today. >> if i may, senator, i can tell you with 100% certainty the military voice was heard and it was considered. >> it was considered but not followed, correct? >> we have presidents are elected for reasons and they make strategic decisions. >> i would say this committee,
general, has always stressed that commanders on the ground should be listened to. would you agree with that? >> i would and i would tell you they were listened to. i think there is a difference between us having an opportunity to have a voice and i think it's very important that the military has a voice. but i firmly believe in -- we're required to give our best military advice but the decision makers are not required in any manner, shape or form to follow that advice. >> i agree with you about civilian control of this country. but i think it is also important to realize when we continue to see missteps by an administration that is costing lives. secretary austin, it has been reported right now that the biden administration reached out to russia about using russian bases in the central asian nations bordering afghanistan to the north for
our strike assets to fly out of for the over the horizon counter terrorism missions. is that true? >> senator, this is an issue that i believe came up during a conversation that the president had with president putin where president putin offered to provide assistance. >> but have you reached out to the russians asking specifically to use bases? >> general milley recently had a conversation with his russian counterpart. >> so the reports are true that have been coming out today? >> i can assure you that, you know, we are not seeking russia's permission to do anything but i believe and joe milley can speak for himself i believe he asked for clarification on what that offer was. >> i have a number of questions which i'll need to get to with
general mckenzie about over the horizon and the capabilities as we look to the future and what's available there. but i think what we're seeing in the reports today about asking to use russian bases, that's just another example that we see of the biden administration. they've really left us in a terrible position that we have to ask the russians to be able to protect the united states from terrorists and we have to ask them to use their installations. thank you. >> i would just reemphasize we're not asking the russians for anything. >> but you are negotiating trying to get these bases to be able to use their installations because afghanistan is a land-locked country and when we have explanations from the military and to give examples for over the horizon and use countries like yemen and libya and somalia, that does not take
into consideration that afghanistan is landlocked and we have to depend on pakistan to give us airspace to get there. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. senator blumenthal, please. >> thanks, mr. chairman. i want to express my hope this hearing is just the beginning, a first step in an in-depth analysis going not just to the last 10 weeks or even 10 months, but 10 years and longer back so that we can match the courage of the men and women of america who have sacrificed during that 20-year war, all of them and all of their families, not just in afghanistan but around the world and we owe them veterans of america much more than we're giving them right now because they have earned it. that in-depth analysis looking
backward is essential but i want to look forward right now to what is happening in afghanistan with respect to americans and our afghan allies. after our withdrawal, it was left to an unofficial network or coalition of veterans, ngos, some government officials. i was involved in an effort through chartered planes and airports outside of kabul to try to airlift on a makeshift ad hoc basis americans and afghan allies still there. they have targets on their back. their situation is in increasingly urgent and desperate. and i have been frustrated by the lack of someone in charge and lines of authority, a point person.
we need an evacuation czar, somebody who will provide a plan and supervise actions so that we can get out of afghanistan the americans that remain there and i will tell you, we don't have an estimate on the number because nobody is in charge right now. so let me ask you, secretary austin, who at the department of defense has overall responsibility with overseeing the effort to evacuate? >> as you know -- first of all, senator, thank you for to you and your colleagues for all you have done to help and continue to help get american citizens out of afghanistan. the state department following the departure of the military the state department remained engaged and continued to work to get american citizens out. and as we've seen some 85
american citizens and 79 legal permanent residents have departed via the kabul airport. and so that work continues on. the state department set up a cell to continue this work and develop a mechanism. that cell is headed up by ambassador bass. as you may recall the ambassador was one of the senior counselors on the ground at kabul when we were conducting the investigation. i have a general officer that's a part of that cell and we have reached out to or ambassador bass has reached out to veterans groups and others who may have information that can help us continue to contact and eventually evacuate american citizens and lprs. so this work continues and we remain committed to continuing that work until we get out as many american citizens that are willing to come out.
>> well, there was a point. you can call it the eye of the storm, when the taliban had taken over the country but really wasn't in charge when we could have evacuated many more, the translators, and others, guards, security officers, and i feel that the administration was on notice. in fact, a group of us went to the white house in the spring and urged that there be a plan for evacuation and unfortunately the withdrawal prevented there from being anybody on the ground. and in the wake of that withdrawal there was a vacuum of leadership. i would hope that it would be more effective action now to put somebody in charge and develop a plan because we know
that there are many americans, whether it's green card holders or citizens or others still there. in connecticut we have a resettlement organization called iris. the person who heads us has told us of individuals who are there, more than 40 in kabul and i'm sure other organizations similarly know of such americans who are still there. >> senator cotton, please. >> thank you. general milley, it is your testimony that you recommended 2500 troops approximately stay in afghanistan? >> as i've said many times before this committee and other committees i don't share my personal recommendations to the president but i can tell you my personal opinion and assessment if that's what you want. >> yes, please.
>> yes, my assessment was back in the fall of 20 and it remained consistent throughout we should keep a steady state of 2500 and bounce up to 3500, something like that in order to move toward a negotiated gated solution. >> bill: did you ever present that assessment personally to president biden? >> i don't discuss exactly what my conversations are with a sitting president in the oval office but i can tell you what my personal opinion was and i'm always candid. >> general mckenzie, do you share that assessment? >> i do share that assessment. >> do you ever present that opinion personally to president biden? >> i won't be able to comment on the executive discussions. >> did general miller ever present that opinion personally to president biden >> i believe his opinion was well heard. best to ask him. >> secretary austin president biden last month said no military leader advised him to leave a small troop presence in afghanistan. is that true?
>> senator cotton, i believe that -- first of all, i know the president to be an honest and forthright man. >> it's a simple question, secretary austin. he said no senior military advised him to leave a small troop presence behind. is that true or not? good d these officers get to the president personally? >> their input was received by the president and considered by the president for sure. in terms of what they specifically recommended, senator, they just as they just said, they are not going to provide what they recommended in confidence. >> sounds to me it is shocking to me and sounds to me like maybe their best military advice was never presented personally to the president of the united states about such a highly constitution ention matter. let me move onto another
recommendation they were reported to have made. general milley. joe biden said it was the unanimous recommendation of the joint chiefs we not maintain a military presence beyond august 31st. we've heard testimony to that effect today as well. when was that unanimous recommendation sought and presented to the president? >> you talking about the 31 august? >> the 31 august deadline. >> 25 august i was asked to make an assessment and provide best military advice on. >> my time is limited here. you gave me the answer i needed to hear. august 25th? >> correct. >> kabul fell august 15th. you were not asked before august 25th? >> on august 25th i was asked to provide best military assessment whether to keep military forces past the 31st. >> was anybody asked before august 25th if we should keep troops at the kabul airport? >> this is -- the president
tasked us to provide an assessment on whether or not we should extend our presence beyond august 31st and as general milley just said, that assessment was made. we tasked them to make the assessment on the 25th and came back and provided his best military advice. >> kabul fell on august 15th. it was clear that we had thousands of americans. clear to members of this committee we had thousands of americans in afghanistan behind taliban lines on august 15th and took 10 days to ask the general officers if we should extend our presence? i suspect the answer would be different if you asked them 16 days out, not five days out. again my time is limited. i want to move on to another matter. president biden's botched evacuation screwed things um coming and going as relates to afghan evacuees. we left thousands.
we brought out thousands who have no particular connection and about whom we know nothing and can't be effectively vetted. you know have female troops assaulted, you have afghan evacuees committing sex crimes at fort mccoy. what are we to make of this? what steps are we taking to insure that thousands of afghans about who we know nothing won't be a menace to our troops at our military bases and to the communities into which they are about to be released? >> i'm certainly aware of the allegations and take the allegations very seriously. and i can assure you that our commanders at our bases have what they need to be able to protect our troops and our families that work and live at those bases. and i am in contact with general van hurt, the commander who has overall responsibility for the operation on a routine basis. and this is an area he remains
sighted on. >> one final questions. general milley i can only conclude that your advice about staying in afghanistan was rejected. i'm shocked to learn that your advice wasn't sought until august 25th on staying past the august 31 deadline. i understand that you are the principal military advisor and that you advise, you don't decide, the president decides. if all this is true, general milley. why haven't you resigned? >> senator, as a senior military officer, resigning is a really serious thing, a political act is to resign in protest. my statutory responsibility is to provide best military advice to the president. that's what the law is. that's my legal requirement. the president doesn't have to agree with that advice or make those decisions just because we're generals. and it would be an incredible
act of political defiance for a commissioned officer to just resign because my advice is not taken. this country don't want generals figuring out what orders we're going to accept and do or not. that's not our job. the principals being controlled in the military is absolute and critical. in addition to that just from a personal standpoint my dad didn't get a choice to resign at iwo jima and the kids at abby gate don't have a choice to resign. they can't resign so i'm not going to resign. no way. if the orders were illegal we're in a different place. but if the orders are legal i intend to carry them out. >> senator hirono, please. >> do i understand you correctly, general mckenzie and milley your recommendation that a certain number of troops remain in afghanistan beyond the august 131st deadline.
>> no, senator, our recommendation, this is the joint chiefs of staff, this is myself, included. general mckenzie, major general donahue, and admiral vaizly. every one of us were in a tank. i brought them up. secretary austin did not show up. no political pressure or expectation of consensus. we all evaluated the military conditions at the time on the 25th and made a unanimous recommendation that we end the military mission and transition to a diplomatic mission. >> while you testified that you may have had the personal recommendation and i think in your case general mckenzie in the fall of 2020 that by the time we were evacuating everyone, that was not a recommendation that you personally held. >> absolutely not. at that point on the 25th of august. on the 25th of august we recommended the mission end on
the 31st. >> thank you for that clarification. the evacuation was chaotic and yes, we are really grateful that our military performed magnificently and evacuating over 120,000 people but secretary austin, secretary blinken acknowledged to my colleagues on the senate foreign relations committee that no one believed a afghan government and military could collapse as rapidly as it did especially in the first weeks of august. you conducted air strikes in the middle of july aimed at blunting the taliban's rapid advance. secretary austin in july you were aware or the d.o.d. were aware the situation was deteat orriateing rapidly by july. why wasn't action taken to
secure the kabul airport or retake bagram then? >> thank you, senator. you are right, the tempo had picked up significantly. the taliban continued to make advances. our entire chain of command, myself, the chairman, general mckenzie, routinely engaged in after began leadership to encourage them to solidify their defensive plans, to make sure they were providing the right logistics to their troops and stiffen their defenses to no avail. and to compound that, president ghani continued to make changes in the leadership of the military and this created further problems for the afghan security forces. >> mr. secretary i don't mean to interrupt but my time is