The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight & Accountability held another hearing on the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the former Chief of Staff, Special Operations at Central Command testified for the first time in public. Colonel (Ret.) Seth Krummrich said in his opening statement, “The president’s decision to ignore the best military advice and execute an immediate military withdrawal was a shock and a rude awakening for all the planners.”
You might recall that Joe Biden wanted the last member of the American military out of Afghanistan before the 20-year anniversary of 9/11. Krummrich said there was no rhyme or reason to that date from a military standpoint, suggesting it was a purely artificial and political date.
“The withdrawal window of May to September of ’21 was planned during the peak of the well-known Afghan fighting season. Why did the tactically meaningless anniversary of 9/11 drive the timeline?” Krummrich questioned.
“There was very little intelligence to suggest the Biden administration’s plan would work and a mountain range of evidence to suggest the plan would fail,” Krummrich said.
He added, “The president’s decision to ignore the best military advice and execute an immediate military withdrawal was a shock and a rude awakening for all the planners.”
And despite Biden’s denials that the White House was in charge of the evacuation, Krummrich contradicted the president’s lies for the first time publicly.
“The bottom line is the administration controlled how we withdrew and when we withdrew, making them the majority stakeholder of many guilty parties in the failure and collapse of Afghanistan in the current Taliban rule,” Krummrich told lawmakers.
Committee Democrats desperately tried to deflect blame from Joe Biden — without much success.
“This was a 20-year war. This was America’s longest war. Multiple generations fought in this war. Four presidencies were responsible for this war. Ten congresses were responsible for this war,” said ranking member Rep. Jason Crow (D-Wisc.)
“Mistakes made throughout 20 years in Afghanistan don’t justify stupidity in the end,” remarked Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.).
That “stupidity” included a complete failure to plan despite being assured in the days leading up to the evacuation that all was going according to plan.
“What would happen to a leader in the military who ignored intelligence and failed to plan until the day before, resulting in troops killed, what would happen?” questioned Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.).
“They would be court-martialed,” Krummrich responded.
When confronted with the truth, Biden simply rejected accounts that contradicted his rosy scenarios.
Biden said in an interview with NBC News that it did not ring true to him that administration officials ignored warning signs or were in denial about the situation.
“No,” he said. “No. That’s not what I was told.”
The president, pressed on whether he was rejecting the accounts in the reports, said he was.
“Yes, I am,” Biden said. “I am rejecting them.”
Perhaps the biggest error made by the Biden administration was in choosing the Kabul international airport as the evacuation hub instead of Bagram Air Force Base. That decision probably cost the lives of the 13 American service members killed in the terror attack on the Kabul Airport.
Another senior military leader, Command Sergeant Major Jacob Smith, warned State Department officials in the months leading up to September 2021 that Kabul International Airport—the eventual site of a terror bombing that killed 13 service members—was not equipped to handle a mass exodus of Americans. But the administration refused to shift the evacuation to the more secure Bagram Air Base, which had been shut down by the time of the withdrawal.
Beyond that, Bagram had other qualities that made it ideal for a quick and safe evacuation. Most importantly, it “had a completely secured airfield that would require a massive military offensive to overrun or breach.” Kabul’s airport, on the other hand, was in the middle of a city of 4 million people — many of them not friendly to the U.S.
Bagram also had “the mechanical capability to destroy sensitive equipment on an industrial scale in a short time,” while Kabul airport “did not,” according to Smith. If the State Department had chosen Bagram as the site of its evacuation, the military likely could have destroyed much of $7.2 billion in sensitive military equipment that was left behind and ultimately seized by the Taliban.
Biden pulled out of Afghanistan despite the near unanimity of his senior military advisors not to leave. “Prudence and patience were replaced with speed of action without the time to study the consequences and mitigate those risks,” Krummrich said.
This is not the first damning evidence of the massive errors and incompetence that occurred in pulling out of Afghanistan. And it raises the question: what can be done to hold the president of the United States accountable for this deadly failure that not only cost American lives but also untold numbers of our Afghan allies that Biden had promised would be allowed to leave rather than be left to the tender mercies of the Taliban brutes?
The way it looks now, the American people are going to have to be the ones who have the final say in Joe Biden’s negligent and incompetent evacuation of Afghanistan in the 2024 presidential election.