It’s been a month since the United States chaotically withdrew its remaining troops from Afghanistan after President Joe Biden urged the surrender.
The analysis shall rightly continue, and this week Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, and CENTCOM Commander Gen. Frank McKenzie testified before Congress for the first time since the deadly withdrawal.
My colleagues hammered home some ideas the last few days, but after a fall afternoon driving back roads, I too have some musings to share.
1. Biden Lied or Misremembered
Comments from the president’s top military advisers directly contradicted what Biden said to ABC News in his now-infamous August interview. McKenzie effectively debunked Biden’s claim that no military leader advised against his timeline for a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“It has been my view, I recommended a level of 2,500, a level that would have allowed us to hold Bagram and other airfields as well,” McKenzie said, referring to the large base the U.S. inexplicably abandoned to instead evacuate from the much smaller Kabul airport.
Milley directly blamed the State Department for the botched evacuation in a classified briefing with senators this week.
The three men were blunt about the need to keep forces in Afghanistan and the limitations of Biden’s so-called “over-the-horizon” policy, which already killed innocent Afghans.
But Milley and McKenzie misled with a simplification about Afghanistan falling in only 11 days, since a Taliban offensive began back in May, as known by anyone reading the invaluable Long War Journal or paying attention.
2) This matters because Milley & @CENTCOM McKenzie were downplaying the Taliban offensive over the summer. Either they were lying, or they didn't understand the gravity of the Taliban's offensive.
— Bill Roggio (@billroggio) September 28, 2021
2. Biden’s Mental State
Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) pushed Milley on the contents of Peril, the much-ballyhooed book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, by reading aloud from a conversation between Milley and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shortly after the Capitol riots.
“I would just say there were a lot of disparaging comments made, and my focus was to assure her that the nuclear weapons systems were under control,” said Milley.
“If you’re the principal adviser to the president and she said that to you, do you think that you were doing service to a president by agreeing with the speaker that your commander in chief is crazy?” DesJarlais asked. Milley responded: “I actually said I’m not qualified to assess the mental health of the president. What I’m agreeing to is that we have to have a secure nuclear system.”
DesJarlais then raised Biden’s situation.
“Have you had any conversation with the speaker or any of our foreign leaders about our current president’s mental capacity?” the congressman asked. “We see it in the press. His lack of ability to answer questions. Have you had any conversations with anybody concerning his ability to carry out a nuclear order or any other serious engagements?”
“No. My answer would be the same,” Milley said. “I’m not qualified to evaluate a president’s mental health or your mental health or anybody’s mental health. I’m not a doctor.”
The general is right not to diagnose, but at this juncture, Biden’s mental acuity is more concerning than former President Donald Trump’s erratic behavior.
3. The Resurgence of Al-Qaeda and ISIS
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) asked, “Is the terrorist threat from Afghanistan greater today or lesser than it was pre-9/11?”
Milley explained that both terrorist groups could soon reconstitute.
“I think it’s a real possibility in the not too distant future—six, 12, 18, 24, 36 months, that kind of time frame—we could see reconstitution of al-Qaeda or ISIS, and it is our job now under different conditions to continue to protect American citizens against attacks from Afghanistan.”
Responding later in the hearing to Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), Milley said radical Islamists across the world are emboldened by the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.
“I think the Taliban sitting in Kabul significantly emboldens the radical jihadi movement globally,” Milley said. “The analogy I have used with many others is that it will likely put a shot of adrenaline into their arm.”
General Milley: Biden’s botched Afghanistan withdrawal "significantly emboldens the radical jihadi movement globally." pic.twitter.com/ypv3vGvVIa
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) September 29, 2021
When Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) asked who’s to blame for the shambolic withdrawal, the three military leaders sat silently before Johnson said, “I’ll let the silence speak for itself.”
It’s all quite terrifying and unacceptable.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is silent when asked who is to blame for Biden's botched Afghanistan withdrawal pic.twitter.com/dqfI1negj1
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) September 29, 2021
Liz Cheney Needs to Relax, But So Do Her Detractors
The Wyoming Republican remains adamant in her criticism of Trump’s final days. One can disagree with her, but she’s consistent, whereas most politicians today prefer political tribalism.
Cheney also praised Milley Wednesday, setting conservative media ablaze.
I agree with HotAir’s Allahpundit though. I think Cheney’s comments were aimed not at Milley, per se, but at this unserious grandstander, who cares more about manufactured outrage for his next cable news sound byte.
Support for Joe Biden has plummeted in the last month:
Iowa: 31% Approve, 62% Disapprove
Texas: 32% to 61%
Michigan: 39% to 53%
Florida: 40% to 53%
Georgia: 40% to 53%
Virginia: 46% to 51%
Minnesota: 47% to 51%
— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) September 30, 2021