- Title: U.S. Defense Secretary Austin did not support staying in Afghanistan "forever"
- Date: 29th September 2021
- Summary: WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES (SEPTEMBER 29, 2021) (UNRESTRICTED POOL) GENERAL VIEW OF U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD AUSTIN, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF MARK MILLEY AND COMMANDER OF THE U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND FRANK MCKENZIE IN HOUSE COMMITTEE HEARING (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, LLOYD AUSTIN, SAYING: "First of all, Chairman, let me be clear that I support the President's decision to end the war in Afghanistan. I did not support staying in Afghanistan forever." GENERAL VIEW OF MILLEY, AUSTIN AND MCKENZIE IN HEARING (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, LLOYD AUSTIN, SAYING: "But I would say that in my view, there was no - is no - risk-free status quo option. I think the Taliban had been clear that if we stayed there longer, they were going to re-commence attacks on our forces. I think that while it's conceivable you could stay there, my view is that you would have had to deploy more forces to protect ourselves and to accomplish any missions that we would have been assigned." GENERAL VIEW OF COMMITTEE (SOUNDBITE) (English) REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN, MATT GAETZ, SAYING: "It just seems like you're chronically bad at this [referring to an earlier statement about Austin's ability to tell if a solider has the will to fight] and you have admitted that which, I guess, is to your credit. But when people in the military like Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Scheller stand up and demand accountability, when they say that you all screwed up, when they point out General Milley's statement that the government of Afghanistan's not going to get defeated by the Taliban - well, he ends up in the brig. And you all end up in front of us and your former employer Raytheon ends up with a lot of money and we have poured cash and blood and credibility into a Ghani government that was a mirage. it fell immediately. And while the guy sitting next to you [referring to Milley] was off talking to Phil Rucker, was off doing his thing with Bob Woodward, we were buying into the big lie. The big lie that this was ever going to be successful and that we were ever going to be able to rely on the Afghanistan government for anything at all. General Milley, you kind of gave up the game earlier when you said you wanted to address elements of your personal conduct that were in question. We're not questioning your personal conduct. We're questioning - in your official capacity - going and undermining the chain of command which is obviously what you did." CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF, GENERAL MARK MILLEY, SAYING: "Did not undermine the chain of command in any manner, shape or form, Congressman." REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN, MATT GAETZ, SAYING: "You absolutely did." CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF, GENERAL MARK MILLEY, SAYING: "Did not." REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN, MATT GAETZ, SAYING: "Well, you know what? You said yesterday that you weren't going to resign when senators asked you this question. And I believe that you guys probably won't resign. You seem to be very happy failing up over there. But if we didn't have a President who was so addled, you all would be fired. Because that is what you deserve. You have let down the people who wear the uniform in my district and all around this country and you're far more interested in what your perception is and how people think about you and insider Washington books than you care about winning (COMMITTEE CHAIR SPEAKS OVER GAETZ SAYING: "THE GENTLEMAN'S TIME HAS EXPIRED.")" MILLEY LISTENING AS GAETZ SPEAKS AUSTIN, MILLEY AND MCKENZIE LISTENING AS GAETZ SPEAKS
- Embargoed: 13th October 2021 18:56
- Keywords: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley General Frank McKenzie Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin
- Location: WASHINGTON DC, UNITED STATES
- City: WASHINGTON DC, UNITED STATES
- Country: US
- Topics: Government/Politics,United States
- Reuters ID: LVA001EWRXBNR
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told a congressional committee on Wednesday (September 29) that he had not supported keeping troops in Afghanistan "forever."
He also told a House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the U.S. withdrawal in Afghanistan - the second in two days with testimony with top military leaders - that there had been no "risk-free" status quo option if the military had stayed and that more troops would have been needed.
Austin's comments came during a multi-hour hearing that saw Republican U.S. lawmakers try to pick apart President Joe Biden's defense of his withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Florida Republican congressman Matt Gaetz railed against the military leaders saying: "You seem to be very happy failing up over there" and accusing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley of "undermining the chain of command," which Milley denied.
Biden has faced the biggest crisis of his presidency over the war in Afghanistan, which he argued needed to be brought to a close after 20 years of stalemated fighting that had cost American lives, drained resources, and distracted from greater strategic priorities.
Republicans have accused him of lying about military commanders' recommendations to keep 2,500 troops in the country, of playing down their warnings of the risks of a collapse of the U.S.-backed government in Kabul, and of exaggerating America's ability to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming a safe haven for militant groups like al Qaeda.
(Production: Kristin Neubauer)
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