- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 28, 2021

A Marine Corps battalion commander was relieved of his post late Friday after posting a video to social media blasting the military’s handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying Pentagon leaders should be held accountable for the foreign policy “ineptitude” seen in the Biden administration.

The blunt video from Marine Corps Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller captured the anger and confusion swirling in much of the country amid America’s chaotic withdrawal from Kabul. Thursday’s attack in Kabul by the terrorist group ISIS-K, which killed 13 U.S. service members and wounded nearly 20 others, has only raised more questions about how White House, State Department and Pentagon leaders allowed America to be put in this position. 

In the video, which has been shared on Facebook more than 45,000 times as of Saturday morning, Lt. Col. Scheller said he was motivated by a “growing discontent and contempt for my perceived ineptitude at the foreign policy level, and I want to specifically ask some questions to some of my senior leaders.”

“People are upset because their senior leaders let them down and none of them are raising their hands and accepting accountability or saying, ‘We messed this up,” an emotional Lt. Col. Scheller said in the post, going on to specifically question the decision to abandon the strategically vital Bagram Air Base before the U.S withdrawal was completed.

“I’m not saying we’ve got to be in Afghanistan forever,” he said. “But I am saying: Did any of you throw your rank on the table and say, ‘Hey, it’s a bad idea to evacuate Bagram airfield, a strategic air base, before we evacuate everyone? Did anyone do that? And when you didn’t think to do that, did anyone raise their hand and say we completely messed this up?’”

Having given up Bagram, the U.S.-led evacuation effort has been entirely reliant on the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, which has become a prime target for ISIS-K terrorists.

Shortly after the video went viral on social media, Lt. Col. Scheller was relieved of his command.

“Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller was relieved of command by Col. David Emmel, Commanding Officer of School of Infantry-East, due to a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to command,” Marine Corps spokesman Maj. Jim Stenger said in a statement. “This is obviously an emotional time for a lot of Marines, and we encourage anyone struggling right now to seek counseling or talk to a fellow Marine. There is a forum in which Marine leaders can address their disagreements with the chain of command, but it’s not social media.”

Lt. Col Scheller clearly expected such consequences.

“I feel like I have a lot to lose,” he said in the video.

The U.S.-backed Afghan government collapsed Aug. 15 following a massive military offensive by the Islamist Taliban. The U.S. then launched a frantic effort to evacuate thousands of American citizens and tens of thousands of Afghan allies before President Biden’s self-imposed Aug. 31 deadline to leave the country.

That effort is heavily reliant on the cooperation of the Taliban, which claims to be operating strict checkpoints around the Kabul airport. But those checkpoints failed to stop ISIS-K suicide bombers and gunmen on Thursday from killing 13 U.S. troops and more than 100 Afghans.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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