Mark Milley ups terror threat level as Biden's Afghan folly threatens to haunt US
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A Milley told senators on Sunday, August 15, 2021, that he will move up the assessment of how soon terror groups like al-Qaeda could reform in Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover of the war-torn nation, according to a report.
As per a report, during a briefing for a bipartisan group of lawmakers, Milley was asked by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) if he and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin would revise an assessment to Congress in June that there is a "medium" risk of terrorist organizations reconstituting in Afghanistan in less than two years.
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As per a report in Axios that cited three sources on the phone call, Milley had said, "Yes", adding that he would be happy to brief the senators further in a classified setting.
The briefing by Milley, Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken came amid rapid developments in Afghanistan. Just as the US military used helicopters to ferry diplomats and staffers from the Embassy in Kabul after the Taliban entered the capital city on Sunday, it caught the Biden administration flat-footed with their advance.
Shortly after the Taliban entered the city, reports started doing the rounds that the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had fled the country. At the briefings, lawmakers urged the administration to evacuate thousands of Afghans who worked with the US military during the 20-year war to protect them from the Taliban. As per a report in Politico, one source said it’s unlikely that the more than 20,000 Afghans who want to flee can do so by the August 31 withdrawal deadline as the Taliban controls so much territory. In October 2001, the US and its allies had launched the war in Afghanistan because the Taliban provided al-Qaeda support and also a safe harbor while the 9/11 attacks were planned.
The report revealed that the person pointed out that many of them aren’t in Kabul and added that “if you’re not in Kabul now, how do you get to Kabul?” The source added, “Two takeaways for me — we’re going to leave tens of thousands of people behind … and the timeline in terms of threats has accelerated.”
Additionally, Blinken noted that the administration’s hands were tied to pull out troops because of the May 1 timetable that the Trump administration negotiated with the Taliban. This deadline was extended by President Biden to August 31. Austin added that the Pentagon has expected a "number of potential outcomes", but the "lack of resistance that the Taliban faced from Afghan forces has been extremely disconcerting," as per reports. "They had all the advantages, they had 20 years of training by our coalition forces, a modern air force, good equipment and weapons," Austin said on the call. "But you can’t buy will and you can’t purchase leadership. And that’s really what was missing in this situation."
In July, when Biden was speaking to reporters at the White House to announce the August 31 deadline, the president dismissed the idea that it is "inevitable" that the Taliban would overrun the country once US forces depart. "Because you - the Afghan troops have 300,000 well-equipped - as well-equipped as any army in the world - and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban. It is not inevitable," he said.
When reporters asked the president on the intelligence community’s assessment that the Afghan government would eventually collapse without the support of the US military. "That is not true. They did not reach that conclusion, Biden said. "The Afghan government and leadership has to come together. They clearly have the capacity to sustain the government in place. The question is: Will they generate the kind of cohesion to do it? It’s not a question of whether they have the capacity. They have the capacity. They have the forces. They have the equipment. The question is: Will they do it?" he continued. The president had said the US would continue to back the government during the drawdown, “but there’s not a conclusion that, in fact, they cannot defeat the Taliban.”