In the final days of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, a top American general reportedly warned the Taliban leaders to ask their fighters to stay away from Kabul for a few days till the operation was over. Unfortunately for the U.S. troops, the warning was ignored and the insurgent group rolled in scot-free.
Ignored Warning: Is US Losing Its Might?
According to three senior defense officials cited by NBC News, Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, met with Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar in Qatar. He then showed him a map with a circle around Kabul, about 20 to 30 kilometers (12.4 to 18.6 miles) outside the city, and warned him to keep the Taliban fighters outside the demarcation line set in the map, or the U.S. troops will strike them. He made it clear that his goal is to ensure the safe withdrawal of American fighters and their allies.
The Taliban leader pointed out that they already have men inside the area, though he reportedly agreed to let the U.S. forces leave without interference from their insurgents. He even offered to provide a liaison for security around the airport.
The next day, according to the defense officials, Taliban fighters rolled into Kabul, and contrary to McKenzie’s promise, no U.S. warplanes bombed the Taliban fighters in the area. The incident proved to be a confusing and dangerous end to the U.S. military’s presence in Afghanistan.
Senate Hearing On The Backlash Of The Afghan Pullout
As the Biden administration officials and the U.S. commanders struggle to cope, however, the White House and the State Department officials didn’t seem interested in the military’s plight, says the senior defense officials.
Instead, the lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are lambasting the administration for the abrupt withdrawal from Afghanistan, as well as the ensuing chaos, resulting in some tragic incidents that killed innocent aid workers.
In a scheduled hearing on Tuesday, both the administration and the U.S. military, along with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, and McKenzie will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee for explanations.
Senators are expecting to grill these officers for a full accounting on the intelligence reporting in advance of the U.S. withdrawal, recommendations to the president about troop levels before his decision to pull forces out, why Bagram Airfield was closed in July before an evacuation began, what went wrong in the U.S. drone strike wrongly killed an aid worker and seven children on Aug. 29 after being suspected of relations with the Islamic State militant group. They are also expected to grill the military about how the Pentagon plans to carry out counterterrorism strikes now that the US troops are out of Afghanistan.
The lawmakers are also geared to question why the evacuation of American citizens and Afghan allies were not launched earlier along with the role that the military, the State Department, and all the other agencies played in contingency planning.
Despite the plan, the senior defense officers think it is highly unlikely that Austin or any of the top military officers appearing with him will discuss intelligence at a public hearing or even share the advice they gave the president on troop levels or other issues.
Even the Pentagon did not offer any statement regarding the issues.