Key Point: “Senior Pentagon officials said Wednesday 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.”
Associated Press: US general: Afghan collapse rooted in 2020 deal with Taliban
By Robert Burns and Lolita C. Baldor
September 29, 2021
Senior Pentagon officials said Wednesday 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.
“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.
He was referring to a Feb. 29, 2020, agreement that the Trump administration signed with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, in which the U.S. promised to fully withdraw its troops by May 2021 and the Taliban committed to several conditions, including stopping attacks on American and coalition forces. The stated objective was to promote a peace negotiation between the Taliban and the Afghan government, but that diplomatic effort never gained traction before Biden took office in January.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, testifying alongside McKenzie, said he agreed with McKenzie’s analysis. He added that the Doha agreement also committed the United States to ending airstrikes against the Taliban, “so the Taliban got stronger, they increased their offensive operations against the Afghan security forces, and the Afghans were losing a lot of people on a weekly basis.”
“The Republicans’ sudden interest in Afghanistan is plain old politics,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, who supported Biden’s decision to end U.S. involvement there.
Tuesday’s hearing also was contentious at times, as Republicans sought to portray Biden as having ignored advice from military officers and mischaracterized the military options he was presented last spring and summer.
In a blunt assessment of a war that cost 2,461 American lives, Milley said the result was years in the making.
“Outcomes in a war like this, an outcome that is a strategic failure — the enemy is in charge in Kabul, there’s no way else to describe that — that is a cumulative effect of 20 years,” he said Tuesday, adding that lessons need to be learned, including whether the U.S. military made the Afghans overly dependent on American technology in a mistaken effort to make the Afghan army look like the American army.
Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas asked Milley why he did not choose to resign after his advice was rejected.
Milley, who was appointed to his position as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by President Donald Trump and retained by Biden, said it was his responsibility to provide the commander in chief with his best advice.
“The president doesn’t have to agree with that advice,” Milley said. “He doesn’t have to make those decisions just because we are generals. And it would be an incredible act of political defiance for a commissioned officer to resign just because my advice was not taken.”