Austin also questioned decisions made over the 20-year campaign of the US war in Afghanistan. He was accompanied by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley.
The US government, he said, may have too much confidence in its ability to form a competent Afghan government. “We helped build a state, but we couldn’t build a nation,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“The fact is that the Afghan army that we and our allies trained, laid down their arms with ease. It took us all by surprise.”
Austin acknowledged shortcomings in the evacuation operation that began on August 14 at Hamid Karzai International Airport. He, however, said the evacuation by air service was a historic achievement that took away 124,000 people under the Taliban regime.
“We have all seen pictures of Afghan civilians running out of fear on the runway and behind our planes,” he said. We all remember the confusion outside the airport. But within 48 hours, our soldiers had restored order.
Republicans in particular have intensified their attacks on President Joe Biden’s decision to pull all troops out of Afghanistan by August 30. They are demanding more information about the suicide bombing in Kabul that killed 13 American soldiers in the final days of their withdrawal.
AP Devendra Madhav