Senior Pentagon officials have said there will be ample time for a review of the events over the past two weeks in Afghanistan that resulted in the abrupt U.S. withdrawal from the country. But Gen. David H. Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps, wants it done sooner rather than later.
Speaking at a maritime security dialogue on Wednesday hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Gen. Berger said a review needs to happen “while it’s relatively fresh in our minds.”
“We need an honest, open critique or a commission,” he said. “What were the options that were available (and) who made what decisions at what time?”
While there have been calls in Congress for administration heads to roll — including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley — Gen. Berger said the purpose of any “after-actions review” is to learn from what happened and do better next time.
“It’s not so we can penalize or hang somebody from a yardarm,” he said.
Gen. Berger said the framework of a study could follow the example of the Holloway Report from 1980. Led by the late Adm. James L. Holloway, a former chief of naval operations, the commission reviewed the failure of the mission to rescue 52 staffers being held in the U.S. Embassy in Iran.
The August 26 suicide bombing that killed 13 U.S. service members — including 11 Marines — manning a gate at Kabul’s lone international airport would obviously play a major role in any after-action review of the last days of Afghanistan. But Gen. Berger said Marines who survived the attack tell him they believe their work there was important.
“They’re not political. They don’t care about international relations,” he said. “They can tell you how many people were processed through the evacuation control center and put on a plane. To them, it’s worth it because there’s an [Afghan] baby who is going to be able to grow up here in the United States.”