Afghan withdrawal: Reaction to Pentagon leaders’ testimony split among party lines

Taliban Takeover

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Senior Pentagon officials said Wednesday that the collapse of the Afghan government and its security forces in August could be traced to a 2020 U.S. agreement with the Taliban that promised a complete U.S. troop withdrawal.

Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of Central Command, told the House Armed Services Committee that once the U.S. troop presence was pushed below 2,500 as part of President Joe Biden’s decision in April to complete a total withdrawal by September, the unraveling of the U.S.-backed Afghan government accelerated.

“The signing of the Doha agreement had a really pernicious effect on the government of Afghanistan and on its military — psychological more than anything else, but we set a date-certain for when we were going to leave and when they could expect all assistance to end,” McKenzie said.

Reaction to the two days of testimony from top generals has been mixed. Some Republicans, including Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, have pummeled military leaders for not being more demonstrative and warning Biden his strategy was flawed.

Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.) told Leland Vittert on Wednesday’s “On Balance” that it was difficult for the generals to admit who they were referring to as they testified.

“They still work for the president of the United States,” Green said. “And they’re probably going to be, you know, covering themselves as much as they can. But they, they didn’t say a falsehood, right? They just didn’t say ‘Joe Biden.'”

Democrats were also critical of the U.S. withdrawal, although some, including California Rep. John Garamendi, are saying the president’s hands were tied.

“More troops would have to be added,” Garamendi said during Wednesday’s “On Balance.” “There’d be a new surge in order to protect the troops. It was time for the war to end. The bottom line is it was time for the war to end — 20 years. Time to end it. Biden did that; he took responsibility. And frankly, that responsibility is shared by four previous administrations.”

Gen. Mark Milley told the Senate committee, when pressed Tuesday, that it had been his personal opinion that at least 2,500 U.S. troops were needed to guard against a collapse of the Kabul government and a return to Taliban rule.

The concern now shifts to intelligence gathering in Afghanistan, which the leaders admitted would be difficult without troops on the ground.

Leland Vittert and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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