The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said there will be an opportunity for in-depth analysis of what went wrong in Afghanistan, but with U.S. combat troops working to evacuate thousands of terrified Americans and pro-U.S. Afghan civilians from a country firmly under Taliban control, now is not the time.
“This needs to be our focus. Our mission is to secure [Hamid Karzai International Airport,] defend that airfield, and evacuate all those who have been faithful to us,” Gen. Mark A. Milley told reporters on Wednesday at the Pentagon.
While briefing reporters on the expanding evacuation effort at their airport near Kabul, Gen. Milley said the intelligence reports he had seen indicated multiple scenarios were possible: a negotiated settlement between all parties; a civil war, and an outright Taliban victory following a collapse of the Afghan government and military. The time frame for a Taliban victory ranged from weeks to months to years following the U.S. withdrawal, Gen. Milley said.
“Nothing I or anyone else saw indicated a collapse of the army and the government in 11 days,” he said. “But right now we have to focus on this mission because we have soldiers at risk.”
President Biden has squarely placed the responsibility for Afghanistan’s quick collapse on the country’s government and its homegrown army the U.S.and NATO allies spent 20 years building, equipping and training. Gen. Milley said he always said the country’s forces had the capacity, the training, and the capability to defend their country.
“This comes down to an issue of leadership,” he said.