Senate Republicans on Wednesday called on Democrats to compel senior Pentagon leaders to testify about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
In a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat, nine committee Republicans said they “acutely feel the obligation to seek answers.” They noted that the committee “bears the special responsibility of authorizing and overseeing America’s armed forces.”
The Republicans, led by Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, said the chaotic pullout left Americans and service members in particular “hurting, angry, and disappointed.”
“We owe them a clear and comprehensive understanding of what happened, why, and how best to learn from these events for the future,” they said in the letter.
They requesting testimony from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, U.S. Central Command Commander Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., and Commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller.
The letter comes as Secretary of State Antony Blinken prepares to testify next week before the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations Committees.
The Republicans also highlighted the lingering questions from lawmakers over the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, which ended with the Taliban in control of the war-torn country and close to 100 U.S. citizens left behind.
House and Senate members on both sides of the aisle have pressed the administration for insight into key decisions made leading up to and throughout the withdrawal that they say left the U.S. military flatfooted while the Taliban took control of the country.
In a statement following the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, Mr. Reed said his committee would “hold hearings on what went wrong in Afghanistan and lessons learned to avoid repeating those mistakes,” at the appropriate time. He also cautioned against politicizing congressional inquiries into the matter.
“There are no easy answers to how we got here,” Mr. Reed said at the time. “I would argue that several factors over the last twenty years of war in Afghanistan have shaped this outcome and must be considered as we move forward and engage in future conflicts.”
“This is not a Democratic or a Republican problem,” he said. “These failures have been manifesting over four presidential administrations of both political parties.”
While the Pentagon has been spared much of the vitriol from GOP lawmakers, some have called for the top brass to resign.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, one of the co-signers on Wednesday’s letter, called Mr. Austin and Gen. Milley to resign as the pullout unraveled.
“Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin knew Americans were stranded and failed to get Americans home. He should resign,” Mrs. Blackburn, Tennessee Republican, said on Twitter just days before the U.S. troops completed the pullout in late August.
“General Milley helped execute one of the worst foreign policy plans our military has seen. He should resign,” she said in another tweet.
The top Republican on the committee, Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, said after the pullout that the blame rests squarely with President Biden, saying the president failed to listen to his military leaders.
“President Biden’s decisions on Afghanistan are clearly his alone,” Mr. Inhofe said. “He didn’t listen to his military advisors about maintaining a small but effective presence in Afghanistan or how to exit the country safely.”
“He is the Commander-in-Chief, and he has failed every step of the way,” he said. “He and his administration must be held accountable for these failures.”
Mr. Inhofe did not co-sign Wednesday’s letter.