tv Defense Secretary Joint Chiefs Chair Others Testify on Afghanistan... CSPAN October 3, 2021 5:58pm-8:00pm EDT
>> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for your testimony earlier and your continuing testimony now. secretary austin, i would like to go back to the topic of my first round of questions, the evacuation of americans and our afghan allies, the translators, interpreters, guards, security officers who sided with us, put their lives on the line, and who now literally have targets on their backs, along with their families. i asked you who at the department of defense is in charge of our efforts to evacuate them? and with all due respect, you didn't give me the name of the person at dod leading these efforts. but you pointed me instead to the department of state and interagency efforts. i have been involved in working
on this evacuation issue and on the refugee question for some time, along with this coalition of veterans, ngos, concerned citizens and some government officials. and the frustration i have encountered is i have been directed repeatedly and constantly from one agency to another, dod sent me to state who then sent me to the national security council, who would send me back to the department of defense. it was a kafka-esque exercise in bureaucracy while lives were on the line, and this private network or coalition was doing the work that the united states government would have done if it had maintained a presence there, but it had none. and that's why at kabul, it was
doing that work. so i'm concerned that despite this committee's efforts to call attention to the looming crisis in the evacuation we were unprepared, and as i mentioned earlier, the number of members of this committee went to the white house in the spring, asked for a plan, a strategy. and none was forthcoming. i'm concerned we'll repeat that mistake as we work to avoid a humanitarian crisis during refugee resettlement. and that will be a huge undertaking with hundreds of thousands of afghan refugees who are literally escaping torture and murder coming to this country, many of them with nothing more than the clothes
they had when they left. we currently have tens of thousands of those individuals on your bases, department of defense bases, both overseas at qatar, kuwait, saudi arabia, germany, and domestically, as you well know. virginia, wisconsin, new mexico, and texas. this is a department of defense responsibility. it's a moral imperative. these people risked their lives for us, as you know on this panel better than any of us. and it will be shared with the state department, department of homeland security, health and human services. numerous other federal agencies. and we owe it -- we own it. it's our responsibility. i'm a united states senator, and i continue to have difficulty ascertaining who is in charge. i think we need an evacuation czar, a point person on refugee resettlement whose mission is
public and who is known to the american people to be in charge here. so i would like to ask you, how do we insure that there is an official in charge, a point person, someone to insure that afghan children receive schooling, that there are language services, that they receive medical care, and can you give us an update on what the status is? >> well, again, senator, thanks for all -- for your sustained interest and for all that you have done to continue to help get people out. and there is a process. there is a mechanism. state has responsibility, as you know, for the continuing -- for being the lead to continue to evacuate american citizens and
siv applicants out of afghanistan. that process is being run by ambassador bass. it's an interagency effort, and we contribute to that with a dedicated general officer as a part of that. in terms of the evacuees or the guests that are being housed on our installations, the department of defense has responsibility for housing them and for their care and feeding. in terms of integrating them into our society, dhs and state really are leading that process. and i agree with you, it's very important that we do this the right way, and it's very important that we do this carefully but as rapidly as possible. because we do have, you know, children that need education and all those kinds of things. in the meantime, dod will remain sighted on making sure they
receive the best care and we provide for their safety as well. >> thank you. >> senator fisher, please. >> thank you, mr. chairman. general mckenzie, at the beginning of this hearing, chairman reed made a comment about the goal and mission that we're going to be looking at now in the future is to assure that afghanistan never again can be used as a base for terrorists. and as we look at that goal, as we look at that mission, i think we need to be honest with the american people on how that will be accomplished. i don't think the american people should be misled about capabilities that are needed to make sure that we can conduct over the horizon counterterrorism operations. president biden has pointed out
that we conduct over the horizon ct operations to go after terrorists in other places in the world, including isis in syria, al qaeda in yemen, al shabaab in somalia. general mckenzie, in those three locations, we have either a u.s. presence or a reliable partner on the ground. is that correct? >> senator, that's correct. >> and in those three locations, do we have strike assets or agreements in nearby countries? >> at the level of this briefing, yes, we do. >> okay. general mckenzie, when the department developed its initial plans for an over the horizon approach to counterterrorism in afghanistan, did those plans assume that the afghan security forces would serve as our partner on the ground? >> we developed plans that were neutral on that. we developed a spectrum of
options ranging from we would have robust help from some future government in afghanistan, to assist us in the situation, which is what we have now, where we would have no help from the government of afghanistan. we developed options across the entire span of future possibilities. >> but as we developed the options, you developed the options, and the reality is now that we didn't see this collapse coming so quickly, and we don't have partners on the ground. is that correct? >> we always had one of the options for ct in afghanistan would be that we would be at a state where there would be no diplomatic presence there and no help from the government of afghanistan. so from the beginning, we always saw that as one of the possible futures. >> and that's the situation we're in right now? >> that is correct. >> you stated that during the evacuation, we developed a pragmatic relationship with the taliban. but you're not saying we should consider the taliban to be a
reliable partner by any means, are you? >> i do not trust the taliban. i do not consider the taliban to be a reliable partner, and any time you deal with the taliban, you have to look at what they do and not what they say. >> general mckenzie, yemen, syria, and somalia all border an ocean or a sea, and we can use carriers or other sea-based assets to conduct ct operations. afghanistan, however, is a land-locked country so we cannot use our sea-based assets in the same way. our nearest base in qatar is about 1600 miles away from northern afghanistan. so our strike assets are significantly further from potential targets than they are in other operating locations. is it fair to say that it is more difficult to hit targets that are further away from where the strike asset is based? >> senator, in general, that's a factor. i would tell you because our
ability to refuel aircraft, to position, for example, during the withdrawal, we positioned a carrier off the coast of pakistan, which shortened the range considerably. there are ways to get to that finished solution. if i could just add, it is not the finished part of the problem that is the most difficult part of the problem. it's the finding and fixing the target where we run into great difficulties, particularly associated with afghanistan because as you noted it's land-locked location, its great range from the bases. while we do have platforms that can fly into there, it eats up a lot of time and force to do the mission. hard to do, very hard to do. it's not impossible to do. but there are -- we can talk more about it in a closed session. >> it's part because of lack of factors on the ground. >> nats a significant factor. >> to even reach afghanistan, our strike assets, they have to fly over other countcountries.
without an agreement from central asian nations, is it accurate we're reliant on the continued use of pakistani air space for our over the horizon strategy? >> senator, you are correct. >> and that is -- that is not a sure thing for the future, correct? >> senator, i wouldn't predict the future. i know they were very supportive during the last phase of our engagement in afghanistan. i think we're now talking to them at various levels about how we might maintain the ability to do that in the future, but i wouldn't want to get ahead of the department, the secretary, and the policy people on this. >> they also have a strong relationship with the taliban. would you consider that's going to grow? >> i would consider that they're going to be very conflicted about this as they have been for the last 20 years. >> thank you. >> thank you very much. senator kaine, please. >> thank you, mr. chair. to the witnesses, i'll direct this to secretary austin. what is the administration's current best estimate of the
number of americans that are in afghanistan? >> senator, according to state, there are currently fewer than 100 american citizens who want to department and are ready to leave. we got out 21 american citizens today, along with their family members. and we'll continue to work this as you have heard us say earlier. the numbers fluctuate daily because more people come to light as time goes by, and they see opportunities to safely leave. so this has been a dynamic process, but again, we will stay focused on this. >> i understand that. i'm aware that you have had success in getting americans out because i have advocated on behalf of some of them and i have seen the results of your effort, and i know you will continue that. if i remember correctly, there started to be communiques to
americans in afghanistan that they might possibly consider returning to the united states as early as march. is that correct? >> i don't have knowledge of those communiques. >> i think that may be from a foreign relations state department standpoint. obviously, you can't bring folks home who don't want to come home, but the number that you're currently looking at, and i thdz that it changes, who want to come home, is now less than 100. and i trust that you'll continue to be diligent about that. to the question that i posed in my first round of questions, and general mckenzie, i would like to start with you, all three of you are leaders, but you also have on the ground experience. and i know you have a deep connection to afghanistan. and people that you fought together with, and your partners and colleagues there, as well as the americans who sacrificed so bravely, and for the purposes of the committee, we really want to dig into this question about why did the security forces and government fail so quickly? because it bears upon future train and assist efforts or
future humanitarian efforts. beginning with you, general mckenzie, what are you own thoughts about the speed of the collapse of the military and civilian government. >> i believe the collapse of the military and government are completely linked. you can't consider one without looking at the other. and i believe probably the primary accelerant to -- i'll take the military side, the primary accelerant to lowering morale and general efficiency of the afghan military is what they saw coming on the heels of the doha agreement, what they believed was forced upon them, so i think that had a negative effect. plus, as we get closer to the date we're leaving, the clear vision that the united states is going to leave and we're going to apply a system of at best, partial remedies from their perspective to continue the maintenance of not only the main force, the conventional force on the ground, but also the really high priority items like the air force. as i noted before, we had an over the horizon solution to do that, it was our best attempt to
do that, and i think that affected the military. i'll tell you what i think the dna of those afghan soldiers is the same dna the taliban had, and the taliban fought pretty hard. so i think it comes down to will to combat and fighting spirit. and i think that's where you get the link to the government of afghanistan. and when your president leaves suddenly in the middle of the campaign for the capitol, i think that finishes any chance at all you might have had of making a stand there. there were signals before then of disaffection and fractures in the afghan government, probably better people than me to talk about that, but i think all those came together and had a very powerful negative synergy towards the end. this is not new. we have been able to see it for years. but you know, senator, the one point i would make is this is not inherently a military problem. there are larger factors here than just the u.s. military and what we did or didn't do training the afghans. i'll pause there. >> to your last point of the two points you made, you could have the best fighting force in the world, but if they don't have confidence in their military or
political leadership, it's hard for them to put it all on the line for a leadership they lack confidence in the leadership. any additional thoughts? >> the three choices that you laid out for us, your questions were was it because of insufficient training, was it because the troops were demoralized, or was it because we wanted things for them more than they wanted it for themselves. i would agree with general mckenzie that, you know, the doha agreement had a significant impact on the morale of the troops. but i would say that's compounded by weak leadership, corruption in the government, and the fact that the taliban made a concerted effort to really reach out to provincial leaders and convince them that the taliban was going to be in
charge, so they might as well sign up with them early on. >> my time has expired. i yield back, thank you. >> thank you, senator kaine. senator cotton. >> general milley, in the final two pageoffs your statement, you lay out details of your phone c october 30th and january 2021. you also say you anticipate to make available various documents. i want to ask for it those dlts if we can get them. the first should be straight forward. one, can we get the list of people who joined you on those calls by anymore and by title. >> yes. >> two, can we get a list of similar calls you have made to your military counterparts around the world from say september 1, 2020, to january 20th, 2021. >> sure. >> again, i think those should not be an issue or classified information. third, you mention na this
written statement shortly after those two phone calls, it circulated inside the pentagon and interagency partners that you have. could we get that read out as well? >> yes. >> secretary austin, can i i get your commitment that you'll work with general milley and his team to get that to us as quickly as possible and without unnecessary classification? >> yes, senator. >> thank you. >> secretary austin, on may 8th, you conducted at the pentagon what's known as a drill, is that right? >> that's correct. >> that's pretty important especially for such a significant decision as withdraw ing from afghanistan, is that right? >> that's correct. >> it's been reported that you attended, general milley attended, jake sullivan, is that correct? >> that's correct. >> did tony blinken atend? >> his deputy attended. >> his number two? >> no, mccann.
>> do you know where tony was? >> i don't. >> do you know if he used any dod resources to travel between may 7th and 10th? >> i can certainly find out, but that's -- >> i understand it's not at your fingertips, bust i think we should get it pretty quickly. i'd like to know if they used any dod assets to travel between may 7th, 2021, and may 10th, 2021. thank you for that. secretary austin, who chose september 11th as date by which we would withdrawal from afghanistan? >> i'm not sure that certainly that was not a military
recommendation, but the military, when asked to provide an estimate of how long it would take to retrograde or people and equipment, that number fell in the range of possibly up to 120 days but certainly much shorter than that if we were uncontested. as it turns out, we were uncontested. that date takes you to the end of august. >> i'm sorry, my time is limited. so can you tell me who it was that directed you that september 11th was the date to complete the wut drawl? >> nobody directed us that september 11th was a date we would complete. i think that was an objective that was laid out by the administration. >> the president announced that in mid-april when he announced that decision. someone had to come up with that date. you can't recall who it was? >> it was not a military recommendation? >> any significance to withdrawing by september 11th? >> i don't know who would come up with. >> general mckenzie, it's been
reported you told a taliban leader on august 15th that if they took kabul, we would bomb them? they took kabul. we didn't bomb them. there's a report you told that. >> that report is incorrect. >> thank you. >> general mckenzie, why did we not conduct ground patrols in kabul? the french did, germans did, we stepped outside the gate some. we flew chinooks out. why did we not conduct grol ground patrols? >> i don't believe any of those nations conducted ground patrols. i believe the british went out to the barren hotel, which is facility 150 meters off the compound they did business there, but no one conducted ground patrols going out. i'm very confident of that based on i looked into it with my commander on the ground. i'm quite confident when i make that assertion. >> secretary austin, obviously,
this is an issue on which many of our troops and our veterans feel passionately on both sides of the issue. one of those service members posted a very critical video on social media and he was relieved of his command for that posting he's been held in pretrial confinement. why is that? >> i don't have any specifics of what caused him to be held in pretrial confinement. i would certainly ask the marines to provide that insight. >> thank you, senator cotton. senator king please. do you need a moment? >> discussion that we have had
thus far today is a peculiar one about decisions. and the assumption seems to be that you could make a different decision, for example, on august 31st and everything would have been okay and we would have gotten more people out. my understanding, general milley, that it was your view that making that decision to go beyond august 31st, and i'm using this as an example, would have had consequences which you and your colleagues judged would be far more damaging and dangerous to american lives than the decision to leave on august 31st, including being back at war with the taliban, subject to terrorist attacks and subject to perhaps airplanes being shot down. am i right about this? where the risk calculous was? >> that's correct, senator.
we said risk to mission, risk to force and risk to remaining american citizens in afghanistan was going to go to extremely high beginning september if we stayed past the 31st with u.s. forces. >> you use that term risk to mission, risk to force as a descriptive phrase, but we're talking about potentially hundreds of american lives. are we nod knot? >> when we saw risk to force, it was talking casualies killed and wounded. my estimate at the time, this is 25 of august we're talking about, if we go to war with the taliban on the 1st of september, there were 6,000 taliban and 56 check points in kabul at that time. we would have had to clear kabul. we would have had to reseize bagram and the road in between. that would have taken a significant amount of force. we probably would have had significant amounts killed and
wounded. impact numbers, u.s. military killed and wounded and the remaining citizens would have been at greater risk. >> you mentioned we don't have to retake in kabul. they had 6,000 troops. as i remember discussions in this committee when we were talking about retaking mosul, the general rule of thumb it takes ten troops to dislodge one in a city. dislodging troops in a city is very difficult and takes a large number of attacking troops. is that correct? >> it is but the composition of taliban was not the same. mosul is a prepared defense. they were it dug in and ready to go. the taliban had just moved in, so it would have been thot that level of fight you saw in mosul, but it still would have been significant. you're in an urban area. it would have been a significant level of effort and resulted in significant casualties. >> thank you.
i want to be clear on this. there was a deadline of march 10th for the beginning of negotiations. did the administration, the former administration make any objections or raise problems with the taliban because of their failure to meet that deadline or to ever meet that deadline in terms of negotiations with the afghan government? >> i don't have personal knowledge of that. ien don't personally know. >> general mckenzie, i don't want to go over the same ground, but do you agree with general milley that had we gone beyond august 31st, that decision wasn't just, oh, we're going to abandon americans. it was if we stay until suspect 1st, we would have to make an additional troop commitment and our troops would be at risk. is that correct? >> that's exactly correct.
in the meeting in the tank with the jcs, i was the principle briefer that advanced that argument and does reflect my position. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you it, senator king. senator rounds? >> thank you it, mr. chairman. in welcome to your testimony today, and i appreciate the amount you have put in to being very clear with us, it seems to me that we have left a power void in central asia that has already increased the threat of terrorism and has provided significant opportunities to our adversaries. a little while ago you indicated that, i believe your term was, if we would have had to have made an earlier withdrawal perhaps in april or may, that it would have been very, very difficult to have had had that completed in a an orderly
manner. i think that's the way you describe itted it. is that correct? >> that's correct, sir. >> i think also you would probably agree that the withdrawal on the august 30th deadline was probable not an orderly manner either, was it? >> there are two issue here's, senator, if i may. first of all, you recall that we stayed at the joan miller plan for an orderly evacuation of people and equipment. that plan was laid out. it was rehearsed and executed so by early july, all of the equipment that we wanted to retrograde had been retrograded and most of the people were out except for a small element that was in and around the embassy.
>> mr. secretary, the american people watched with horror on tv during the last days in august in which our young men and women in uniform not only died but they were in the middle of huge throngs of individuals desperately trying to get out. i don't believe that you would suggest that that was being completed in an orderly manner. >> no, so that's the second operation was a non-combatant evacuation, which was i think you heard me say early on, was challenging. we had some challenging times early on. >> but you would not consider to have bye-bye done in an orderly manner, would you? >> overall, we endured challenges, but again, we were able to get out an enormous amount of people. >> i don't disagree that the young men and women who wear the uniform of this country on this particular very challenging time
period did everything they could, but clearly, it was not in an orderly manner. they were in a very deadly situation. would you agree? >> you heard me say so. it was a very dangerous situation that we're in and despite that, they were able to fight through the challenges. because of their heroic efforts, we were able to do what we did. >> mr. secretary, the reason i asked this is because not only american citizens saw this t but i think our allies saw it as well. i think what they saw was first of all, that because of the date certain rather than a conditions-based withdrawal, because of a decision made by our president, we left american citizens behind and we did leave afghans behind who served directly with our u.s. forces. fpz and it appears that many of
them believe we did not appropriately consult with them about their activities in a timely fashion. and finally, to look at and to see american equipment being left there, even if it's not ready for use, but certainly in the hands of the taliban, did not help our position with our allies, sir. general mil than a minute left. i just wanted to comment. i think your second statement in which you shared with the american people and with us today, an expression of how the nuclear chain of command works. part of this, some of us have had the opportunity to observe how that works with the processes working their way through what the presiden on town and the questions asked and the responses required. the 2022 ndaa has some specific
exercise requirements that the white house and other members are required to follow through. do you know if either president trump or president biden had the opportunity to do a table top exercise and actually listen to the questions that were going to be asked of them should there ever be the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons? >> i do not know if either one president trump or president biden has gone through that table top exercise. >> thank you. once again, thank you, gentlemen, for your service to our country. >> thank you, senator. >> thank you, mr. chairman. secretary austin, my colleague mentioned the idea of an independent commission to evaluate what happened before, during and after the war in
afghanistan. so secretary austin, are you open to suggesting an effort? >> senator, i will always cooperate with my oversight committee. >> yes, because i for one agree that this is a 20-year war and there are four presidents involved, and i would like to ensure there's lessons learned from a 20-year forever war. and at the same time, i feel the republicans have made a total about face regarding the war. i thought they wanted the war to end and they were very supportive of president trump when he made the deal with the taliban to get out. so there's that and clearly there are lessons to be leared in terms of the evacuation, but i think the decision to get us out of this forever war was a good one.
i want to move to a very different topic. the president touted the afghanistan pullout as necessary to free up time and money to deal with peer competitors like you shall are ya and china, but that stated rational is somewhat at odds with the administration's budget, which fails to align funding priorities with the lines of effort identified in the pacific deterrence initiative. i brought this up before when we had a posture hearing. so i would appreciate the efforts and where we are in terms of the five lines of effort under the pacific deterrence initiative. could you provide us with that? >> we can. i would just add that i have spent a fair amount of time with our combatant commander since we
last talked. he's laid out his plans and his intent. and i'm fully behind the effort that he wants to undertake. so we look forward to discussing it with you. >> thank you. along those same lines, nuclear disarmament talks remain stalled. i'm conditioned steps taken by the dod and objecting just last week to congressional action to reauthorize funds to keep that program on track and put hawaii at risk in the near future. what's the plan going forward? this is the second time that congress has had to put back money for that radar. so what is the alternative that the dod has that would protect hawaii?
>> hawaii is protected. this is an issue we continue to look at. and rest assured hawaii will not be unprotected. >> i know we're protected as of today. i'm looking at the future. >> a lot of us have concerned about what is going to happen to the women and girls with the taliban coming back. i would be interested to hear your perspective about concrete steps the u.s. can take to influence a future for after fwan women and girls that honors their human rights and freedoms. >> i certainly share your concern. taliban's track record on this is absolutely horrible. we'll haven't to work to use economic levers and also international pressure to hold
the taliban accountable for some of the things that they said they are going to do. and again, i think there will have to be an international effort to maintain pressure on the taliban. >> at some point, i think we'd like to know specifically what kind of efforts are bearing fruit with regard to what the taliban is doing with women and girls in their country. regarding our relationship with pakistan, so i think i'll submit that to the record because we're trying to keep to five minutes, but the relationship going forward with the regard to the taliban. thank you. >> thank you very much, senator. senator ernst? >> thank you, mr. chair. in the previous round we established that the withdrawal achieved no security conditions other than an unconditional
withdrawal. we had to withdrawal by time certain, a date certain. has the -- these are yes or no questions please. has military's task to defeat terrorist threats gotten harder? >> yes. >> does the taliban and its other partners have more ability to train and prepare in afghanistan now that we have left? >> more ability, yes. >> has president biden or his policy staff provided any updated guidance or direction for countering terror from afghanistan? >> yes. >> are we at a greater or lesser risk of terror attack from afghanistan as a result of our withdrawal? >> too early to tell. i think we have about six hos
here to really sort this out and see which drx things are going to go it's not much time, but that's my personal estimate. it could be out to 12. then we'll have some indicators and warnings of which direction this is going to go, but that's where i would put it. >> in the previous round, this is a comment, but in the previous round, each of you had admitted that your best recommendation was to leave a residual force in afghanistan. clearly the president disregarded that advice. i do believe that this has left us less safe. a number of my colleagues have mentioned over the horizon general mckenzie, you referenced the fact that we don't know yet how effective that will be. we don't have partners on the ground. we talked about the air space that would have to be used.
there's still a terrorist threat in afghanistan. on august 20th, president biden stated what interests do we have in afghanistan at this point with al qaeda gone. first, i didn't recognize al qaeda was gone. general mckenzie, is al qaeda gone? >> al qaeda still maintains a presence in afghanistan. >> and secretary blinken had said on august 22nd that the threat of terrorism metastasized out of afghanistan a long time ago. is there any terrorist threat in afghanistan now? >> we see isis nearly rejoouf nated with the prisoners that came out of the prison. they are gathering their strength. we have yet to see how that's going to manifest itself. we know for a certainty they do aspire to attack us in our homeland. so that threat has metastasized
and is resident in other parts of the world. >> it has been reported that the top 22 officials of the new taliban government are known associates of al qaeda, including five terrorists once in prison at gitmo and 13 more sanctioned by the u.n., the united nations as terrorists post 9/11. and i'm very alarmed, secretary austin, that your undersecretary of defense for policy claims there's a minimal threat. he called the terror threat insignificant on a call with senators less than a month ago. he's wrong. i think all of you would admit he's wrong. he said he was wrong last week. he's in denial or he's lying. i would hope his testimony and comments are not indicative of your own thoughts and if they
are different, i just truly hope they are. let's leave it at that. closed testimony last week, he was sitting on the koch and he didn't really care what general miller's opinion was. that's the type of thought process we put into decisions that are made at the department of defense. i think we all need to acknowledge and recognize it. al qaeda is not gone. i hope we will make that clear to the president. and we will have to have additional discussions about over the horizon as things develop in the upcoming months. thank you. >> let me recognize senator
gillibrand. >> in continuing on my line of questioning from the first round, secretary austin, general milley, are you aware of any internal audits being conducted within the department of defense on the execution of the war over the last 20 years? >> i am not other than the aar activity. >> what's that? >> after action review. >> what will make up that review? >> we'll focus on the things that occurred as part of this latest operation. i think your initial question was it z this a review of the last 20 years, and the answer to that is no. >> do you think a review of broad scope would be useful to the dod and useful to policymakers in the future, particularly this committee?
do you have a review of the war in afghanistan? for example, what do you think congress's role should be and how would such an audit be conducted. what agencies, countries and organizations should be included in the review of america's longest war fpz. >> a number of diplomats and service members who assisted with evacuation inclouding the 10th mountain division from new york were subjected to trauma and chronic stress. families have told my office sorks many of our service members lost their lives to suicide, which has been devastating. what is dod doing to ensure that
our combat veterans and their families are ed getting mental health assessment and the resources they need? >> thanks, senator. i'll make a comment and let general milley comment as well. you asked him as well. but you heard me say before that my belief is that mental health is health period. and stigma associated with seeking help if you're deeping with issues. and i have encouraged the entire force, all our leadership, to make sure that number one, we have adequate resources available for our troops and our families and, number two, they destigmatize the issue of assisting help with mental health issues. >> senator, i commanded the 10th mountain region at one point. and that division is one of the most deployed divisions along with the 101st air bourn out of senator blackburn's state.
and there's significant mental health capability there to help the soldiers on that evacuation. they will get immediate assessments upon redeployment as the normal procedure and those that need counselling, it's there. the key we have to emphasize a culture of non-stigmatizing mental health issues that they have so they feel free to seek out the counsel we have available. >> thank you. i would like to follow up on the line of questioning that senator ernst started. can you describe for us the al qaeda threat today? where it's located, where it will be going, what the strength is compared to the strength of the last 20 years and please answer the same question for isis and other variations across the world. >> you're asking me? >> yes, general milley first and then secretary austin. >> so first, it would be good to hand tangherlini in some detail
in a classified session, but in an unclassified session i would say the al qaeda threat is still there. the threat in afghanistan has an opportunity now to potentially reconstitute, although it's been ripped apart over 20 years. and al qaeda has displaced other parts of the world with their affiliates in east africa. also in the sector. so there's several affiliates worldwide. some are capable and definitely have aspirations of attacking. with respect to isis, we saw our isis core in iraq. that was ripped apart, but they still exist. and isis found a new home in afghanistan. alt-right now, they are at war with the taliban. but isis has been affiliates as well. they have high concentrations of lethal terrorist organizations.
to continue to watch that. it has moved and we can cover that in some detail in a classified session. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i'll pursue both questions for the in classified session. >> thank you. senator tillis? >> thank you, mr. chairman. general milley and general mckenzie, i ran out of time before i could thank you for some of the work your staff did in august. we were working several cases. i was involved. i remember a conversation with one of your staff at about 3:00 in the morning while we were try ing to shepard someone out and we did get them out successfully along with some american citizens. unfortunately, we have a much longer list of people that we were not successful with getting out between the holders and family members, my office alone has over 900 peopl still on a list of people who are still in afghanistan.
we communicate through whites out. and ultimately, operations were shut down and they were stranded and left behind. so what role, if any, actually before i answer that, on the mental health issue, we were working with a marine who was trying to get an interpreter out. had been maintaining contact for years. we had all the authenticating documentation. we weren't successful in that case. that marine committed suicide about three weeks ago. so this is having real-life consequences not only in afghanistan, but here in the united states. so secretary austin, what role, if any, does the dodplay in helping us draw down this list of people that we believe we have documentation that suggests they should somehow get sheparded out of afghanistan?
>> my deepest condolences on the loss of our marine. really saddened to hear that. thoughts ask prayers to his family. it's part of a cell mentioned earlier that's headed up by the state department and ambassador john bass is running that. we're trying to pull in as much information from every corner that we can and refine contact information so we can reach out and make sure that people have the right credentials to be able to leave the country. so we continue to work as a part of the state it effort on this issue. >> i think it would be helpful to find out what our point of contact was. it was literally me reaching somebody to see if they could help me or moving it up the
chain of command to where i was able to personally intervene in several cases. some people have said we're glad that we ended this war. is the war on terror over? >> absolutely not. >> general mckenzie? >> the war in terror is not over and the war in afghanistan is not over. >> has the exit from afghanistan made the war more challenge for us or less challenging? with respect to continuing to try to protect the homeland and u.s. interests abroad. >> it's made it more challenging. >> an article published said the military lost 90% of the intelligence collection capability it is had using drones. do you agree with that? >> i didn't see the report.
>> it said we have lost 90% of our intelligence collection capabilities it had using drones before the drawdown. >> i would have to look at the math. we are doing that right now to determine the level. it is significant, i don't know if it's 90%. >> on the sibs and folks stranded in afghanistan, is it fair to say that our human intelligence network given the current status and the fact that many were left behind, is it fair to say that's been stressed even more so than our drone sur lans capabilities. do we have much today? >> we can explain that in a classified session, but there's still yes. >> back to secretary austin, i think it's so important for us to show that we're going to move heaven and get these others out
of afghanistan. this not only has an impact in afghanistan, it has an impact anywhere. keeping our forces safe is standard operating procedure. we owe it to our men and women in uniform to get this right. thank you. >> thank you, senator tillis. now senator warren. >> thank you, mr. chairman. our military executed a massive operation during the month of august. as i understand it, it was larger than the berlin air lift. can you tell us how many americans you evacuated? >> almost 6,000. i can get you a precise number for the record, but about 6,000. >> let's get the right number for the record, but that's helpful. and how many people internal did the u.s. and coalition forces evacuate? >> 124,000 total.
>> an extraordinary effort, but it's hard to get everyone out. >> largest air lift in history. >> right. hard to get everyone out. one problem is that there were so many afghan applicants in kabul waiting to be evacuated because the trump administration had essentially shut the program down. withdrawal was a massive operation conducted in a chaotic, unpredictable environment and some people have criticized you for leaving on august 31st. i just want to explore that for a minute. general milley, once the afghan government collapsed in august, would you say that staying past the date of their collapse would have exposed the force on the ground to substantial additional risk? >> yes, that's exactly what we assessed. if we stayed past the 31st, the risk to force, casual tirks the risk to the mission, the ability
to execute and the risk to the american citizens that are still there was going to go to high levels and we thought that was a level of risk unacceptable. >> and just so i'm sure, and everybody has this on the record, if we stayed another week or two or three, then it's likely there would have been another attack that killed american service members? is that what you're saying? >> i would say that's a near certainty. >> for years, we poured money into the afghan government. for years, we trained their army, outfitted them with all the best american equipment, provided them with overwhelming air power. even so, both the afghan government and the army collapsed almost instantly. so general milley, let me ask you, given how quickly the afghan government and the afghan army collapsed, do you think that either or both would have been able to stand on their own with just another few months or
another few years of american assistance in training? >> i think at this point, that's unknowable. my estimate at the time was if you kept advisers there, kept money flowing, we would probably could have sustained them for a lengthy period of time. whether or not it would have been a different result at the end of the day, that's a different question. >> you know when i hear you say that, it reminds me of all the years i sat in the senate armed services committee and how many times the generals have come in front of us and when you point out every way in which the afghan government was failing and the afghan army was failing, the generals respond with, but we're turning a corner now. >> i said we could sustain them. >> we would be able to keep them and somehow when we got ready to withdrawal they would be well sustained they would not collapse the way they did after 20 years of sustenance and
training? >> i think it would have been the same. >> i believe leaving a force behind would have forced them to stay indefinitely. many of those service members would have been exposed to unnecessary risk and harm. >> that's exactly right. >> we agree. i also just want to say this week we will have our fifth hearing on afghanistan in the eight months since president biden took office. during the trump years, as the afghan government and afghan army racked up one failure after another, the republicans seem far less interested in this topic holding one public hearing a year. the republicans sudden interest in afghanistan is plain old politics. it's not the kind of oversight that we should have been exercising in years past. so thank you, mr. chairman, for calling this hearing. >> thank you very much. senator sullivan? >> thank you, just to my colleague's statement, it's a little rich coming from one of
my colleagues on this committee who wants to gut the military and its readiness. but that's a whole other issue. i want to get back to my line of questioning from this morning. i will tell you again, i have never seen so much anger, at least from my constituents, who witnessed humiliation. a president who is consistently telling falsehoods to the american people and the issue there's no accountability. and you gentlemen, have spent decades serving your country it honorably. and importantly, you have dedicated your lives to an institution that has a culture of strict accountability and responsibility up and down the ranks. i mentioned a few examples this morning. the collisions of the u.s.s. mccain, everybody up and down the ranks was relieved. the recent, very tragic marine,
everybody up and down the ranks including the commanding general of the first marine division was relieved. if your a marine or army second lieutenant training your platoon on patrol and one of your soldiers loses his rifle, that lieutenant is going to get relieved. but on this issue, one of the biggest national security disasters in a generation, no one is accountable. and the american people are livid because they saw it. they see it. they know. we know in retrograde they assess a strategic failure. i appreciate the president of united states is so responsible for this. mr. secretary, do you know if anyone, the national security adviser, the secretary of state or undersecretary for policy of dod has offered their resident
i guess nation to take responsibility for this fiasco? >> i do not. but i don't believe they have. >> thank you. given the military culture of accountability that all of you gentlemen come from, and again i respect that more than almost anybody, have any of you offered your resignation to the president at any time since his decision to withdrawal? and general milley, i understand your earlier answer to this question that senior military advisers and officers can't resign every time they disagree with the president. i actually agree with that. but after the president's decision when the american people see such a strategic failure, as you called it, that's undermining our national security, they expect accountability and there has been none. so have any of you accepted that accountability and responsibility?
>> i'm accountable for my actions. i have not submitted my letter of resident i guess nation. >> no. >> i have not submitted a letter of resignation. >> mr. secretary, i want to know what will it take for someone, anyone in the biden administration to take responsibility or accountability for this national security fiasco. >> from a dod perspective, you heard me say we'll continue to review our actions and we won't resident tat to be critical of ourselves. and if there's someone that should be held bltable for an action, we will certainly do that. >> i want to switch topics. general milley dorks you think if the chinese communist party decided to invade taiwan, would their military leadership call
and give ewe a heads up? >> i think there would be a period of tension. i think there would be an exchange of various communications at all levels. >> you really think that chinese communist party, head of the pla, would call and say, fyi, we're going to get ready to invade taiwan. i thought i'd give you a heads up. you honestly think that? >> i know i would call him and ask him outright. >> you think he would give you a heads up? >> i think an invasion of taiwan would be a fairly obvious thing to pick up on. a lot of communication. >> let me ask a related question. i think the answer is no. if the head of the pla called you and said we're going to get ready to invade taiwan, he would be shot.
you said you were certain president trump did not intend on attacking china. that's what you just said. yet you're quoted as telling the top chinese communist military commander, quote, if we're going to attack, i'm going to call you ahead of time. is that true? >> let me tell you what i actually said. what i said if there's going to be a war, if it there's going to be an attack, there's going to be a lot of calls and tension ahead of time. >> your testimony was you were certain president trump would not attack. that's your testimony this morning. >> that is true. i was communicating to my chinese counterpart on instructions, by the way, to deescalate the situation. and i told him, we are knot
going to attack. president trump has noen intent to attack. i told him that repeatedly. i told him if there was going tb an attack, there would be plenty of communications. i said i will probably call you. we're not going to attack you. just settle down. it's not going to happen. and i did it twice in october and january. >> you're giving a heads up to the chinese communist party -- >> i didn't give them an a heads up because we're not going to attack. i was being faithful to the intent. i was being faithful to hissen intent, senator. >> thank you very much. >> thank you, mr. chairman. in your cob fir mags hearing, you spoke focusing on our shared interest with pakistan. a read out from your august call with pakistan's chief of army staff contained some similar language that you expressed.
my question to you, could you please elaborate for this it committee what you view as our shared interest with pakistan today? and i'm particularly interested in how this relates with the government's relationship with the taliban now that the taliban are in power in afghanistan. >> thank you, senator. i think one key shared interest is the prevention of the humanitarian disaster in afghanistan or in the region. so i think we'll continue to share that interest. i do think there's some intersection in terms of certain types of terrorist activity that i think we can both remain focused on. and an in-depth conversation about pakistan probably would be
better suited in a closed hearing. >> very well. i understand that there were certain airplanes, helicopters and ground vehicles that were disable itted as forces left and as the afghan forces were overrun. right now, i don't want to talk about the operability of a humvee or the pictures we saw of taliban sitting on grounded c-130s. what concerns me more is the potential for our strategic adversaries to have some time and space to examine the technology inside those vehicles to find vulnerabilities and even if a system has been disabled only some ways destroyed, reverse engineering can still be used on those systems and can provide information to sophisticated adversaries that may get ahold of this. we harden our supply chains to protect military technology. it's a matter of national security. so my question for you, is the
department now conducting an extensive assessment of equipment to get a sense of what might be reverse engineered and how do we protect against any use of that information against our forces. >> we will continue to assess what is exploitable, senator. it's flagged for you that all of this equipment is not high end equipment. equipment that we had for our use was retrograded. i would also like to flag for you that while the number $84 billion has been bounced about quite a bit, that's the number that we invested in afghan security forces over a 20-year period of time. and less than 20% of that was
dedicated towards afghan equipment. most of that money was focused on sustainment and salaries and those types of things. >> general mckenzie, if you could go back in time and change one thing about the strategy in the last six months of operations in afghanistan, which could have alleviated some of the chaos at the end, what would it be? >> in the last six months? the decisions made were going to zero. i think i go back to could we have gotten more people out earlier in the process. by that i mean, u.s. citizens and i know the embassy put out at least a dozen notices to leave. i know the ambassador was very aggressive on that. i would have liked to have seen more done in that regard. additionally, perhaps to try to get the sib population out. i think we need to recognize if you're asking the after beguns to fight at the same time you're bringing out the best and the
brightest, that's clearly a conflicting message. so i don't say that lightly or recognize there wouldn't be risk in taking that course of action. that's the way we could have been forceful with our own citizens. they are a very strict limit ations on what you can do to an american citizen abroad for good reason. you have to trust the good judgment of the people of the american citizens that are in afghanistan. >> right. thank you. >> thank you, senator. >> thank you, mr. chairman. secretary austin, why did the committee not get a testimony for today until 10:35 last night. were you not prepared? >> we were prepared. again, i don't know the specifics of what last-minute adjustments were being made at what level, but we were prepared. >> it would have to be a level
above you? did it the white house withhold your testimony? did you have your testimony done before 10:35 last night. >> we did, but the white house wasn't withholding my testimony, no. >> who was? >> nobody. you have to submit written documents to omb. they reviewed them in the afternoon. we got them back 1800. then we made the changes and submitted them. yes, we were late. >> but it wasn't you? >> no. >> it was somebody's strategy, is my guess. just maybe not yours. general mckenzie, but about a half hour ago you said we know for certain isis intends to attack us at home. is that correct? >> that's correct. >> so 20 years ago on september 11th, when the terrorist hijackers took over four
aircraft and attacked the homeland, all of them came here on a visa, correct? now in the last 20 years, al qaeda, isis, taliban, theyen vice president acquired a navy or an air force, as far as we know. so if they are going to carry out that intent, they are going to have to get here themselves. that means that either through a visa program or refugees across the southern border. my question to all of you, isn't national security tied to good immigration security? do you feel it like we're prepared to protect the homeland from visa holders? >> in the case of isis, we have done a remarkable job of hardening the entry process and making it very difficult for them to get their agents into the united states. that's a matter of record just based on performance. the same thing with aq. a larger discussion i refer to the secretary. >> i would submit to you as good
as the work has been done in the last 20 years, the last 6 or 7 months it's been pretty well degraded, i would say. others on immigration policy? pretty important to national security? >> it absolutely is, senator. again, i wouldn't want -- that's a domainover the secretary and i know he and the interagency are continuing to work that very hard. >> all right. according to a press release, a post strike reflection indicates that it was connected to the isis-k leaders that coordinated the august 26th attack at the airport. the way i read that, the actual isis-k leaders who coordinated the attack are still out there. >> i would prefer to talk about it in private. >> i look forward to that.
i yield back. thank you. >> thank you very much, senator. senator duckworth? >> i just wanted to say thank you. i just received a letter this morning in response to a letter i had written to you and secretary blinken asking about the process of certifying that somebody did work for the dod as a contractor. i to want to say the response is a good one. i'll give you a couple minutes to talk about, but it seems you have reviewed over 7800 employment records and matched over 3,400 of those applicants. would you like to talk about the operation a little bit? >> only to say that i mentioned earlier that when this question came up, this is important to us. we think we have to do everything we can to shorten the amount of time that it takes for somebody who has worked with us
before to be able to verify that they have worked with us 37 we're going to continue to work on this and one of my major direct rats is focused on this. and we'll work with the committee on this if you have further requirements. but thank you for your support in this regard. >> thank you. i know each one of us probably does have folk who is contacted our office seeking help in verifying their employment as a contractor. not just under dod, but also with state. i would like to shift gears a little bit and talk about mark frerks. also military have ended, a veteran of the navy, he's still being held hostage in afghanistan. he was abducted in kabul on january 31st of last year. while he's been held captive too long, recent reporting indicates taliban willingness to engage on his release. a senior taliban official
confirmed that negotiators have constituented my constituent and there are attempts between the political bureau and the united states envoy, which we hope will be successful until this regard. we must continue to press his swift return. it must be proper for our foft. in august, a pentagon spokesperson stated the tod is laser focused on returning him home safely to his family and where he belongs. and secretary austin, i know from our numerous conversations, including just yesterday about my constituents, that you have been personally involved in attempting to secure his return in your gaugements with your counterparts and your role as a member of the principles committee at the national security council. can you update me on your discussions with your foreign counterparts and your interagency partnership. i know his family is probably watching this it tangherlini today. >> as you have indicated,
senator, i want him back. and we're going to do everything we can to get him back. as you and i have talked in other sessions, i have engaged the chief of the pakistani army on multiple occasions to solicit his help. i have engaged with other senior leadership to use their influence to see if they can help us there. we'll remain focused on this. i'm hopeful that we can see some movement here in the future. i don't have anything to offer you in terms of specific read outs from the interagency process. i defer to mr. sullivan to provide commentary there.
>> thank you. i appreciate your commitment to getting him home. i am frustrated by how little information there's been ed ma available to conventional staff others when it comes to everyons trying to get allies out of afghanistan. general milley i understand from public reporting you've been working with some veterans groups and other ngos voluntarily offering their help in a continued effort to evacuate americans and at risk afghans from afghanistan. can you share any details with us and the public today about that effort? >> we did outreach to some of the groups probably well known to folks in this room, had them in for some sessions in the defense department to get coordinated so we could have a common operating picture of what sivs, what p1, p 2s, what american citizens most importantly are still there, try
to get the information into a single data vase, etcetera, from the various groups. in addition get them linked into the ambassador because he is the single focal point with the department of state. we've done that now and we have a joint staff general officer involved in that working group with them. he is our liaison and brings them all together to get all the information and develop a course of action to help bring out additional american citizens and others. >> thank you. will you continue to communicating with me and congress about this partnership so we can help facilitate connections with these people who still remain at risk and are contacting us throughout various offices? >> i will. it somebodying run by the department of state but i will be sure to work with the department of state to get that over to you, yes. >> thank you. >> thank you, senator duckworth. let me recognize senator scott please. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> general milley why would you as a sitting chairman of the joint chiefs of staff talk to a
reporter writing a book about a prior administration? why would that be part of your job description? >> as senator blackburn said earlier i deal with the media routinely two, three, four times a week talking to the media and whether it is books, tv news, reporters. we have a lot of media here. it is very, very important to make sure senior officials talk to the media in all of its various forms to explain what we are doing. >> that is -- but you're talking about what happened in the past. >> sure. >> why would you do that? what is the upside to the american public of you talking to -- you have sensitive information, a full-time job, then you go talk about the prior administration. i don't get t it doesn't make any sense. if the media wants to ask you what we're doing right now i get it but the prior administration why would you do that? >> i think it is important to make sure that the american people are transparent with what our government does. that's all. nothing more complicated than
that. >> so it's been reported you discussed sensitive information including private conversations you had with the prior president with these reporters. how is that consistent with your testimony today that you won't talk about any conversations you've had with the president, only what your position is? it's been reported that by these reporters that you have toll them exactly the conversations you had with the prior president. does that seem inconsistent? >> i am not so sure what they're reporting about what i said and private conversations, etcetera. i don't share private conversations with the president. with this president, former president, any president. period. >> so if these reporters are saying this it is completely untrue >> i don't even know what they've written. i haven't read their books. i can tell you that i don't share my personal conversations with the president. period. >> so this conversation about whether you would give prior notice to the military communist china that america is going to
attack. so is it your testimony you will not ever give a heads up to the communist chinese military if the president of united states, doesn't matter who the president is, that you are reporting to, is ready to attack? >> of course i wouldn't. >> you don't feel like you did that, you said that at all. >> no. the context we were talking about, senator, there was a significant degree of intelligence and i think i put the unclassified versions in that timeline. it is not insignificant. not like one report or two. it is an entire body of intelligence that led us to believe that the chinese were misinterpreting our actions and misinterpreting what was happening inside our own country politically and they were assessing a situation that was leading to escalation, possible incident, and it would have been quite dangerous so secretary esper and i met and we met with other members of the team, and we developed an engagement plan
to ensure that we engaged at various levels, secretary esper and he asked me to do that so i did that. i made a call and the theme was to de-escalate to lower tensions. i believe that is a faithful and loyal execution of my constitutional responsibilities and i believe that was faithfully executing the intent of the president at the united states at the time because i knew with certainty president trump was not going to attack the chinese just out of the blue. it wasn't going to happen. and if things did happen, there would be periods of tension, calls going back and forth. >> one more question. it has been reported that you had concerns about the prior president's fitness for office. do you have a criteria for presidents? have you reviewed the existing president, president biden for his fitness for office or do you think that way? do you think you have the ability to have a right to make those decisions and have you been doing that? >> i am not qualified to
evaluate the mental fitness or health of a former president, president, or anybody else in this room. that is not my job. it is not what i do and not what i did. there was a lot of speculation going on but i don't evaluate people's health and fitness. that is not my job. >> okay. how did you feel when president biden attacked the willingness of the afghan military to fight? >> how did i feel? >> yeah. when he went and attacked, he said he didn't think the afghan military had the willingness to fight. how does that make you, as a military officer, how does that make you feel? somebody you put your life on the line -- >> i think the afghan military, there are 60,000 or 70,000 afghans killed action over the last 20 years defending their country and i thought and i personally witnessed units that fought, fought well, and fought bravely and gave their lives for their country. i would also say at the same time over the summer and those 11 days the vast majority of the afghan units put their weapons down and they surrendered without a fight. kabul was taken with a couple hundred guys on motorcycles and
not a shot fired. my question to myself is how did we miss that? what happened? how did that happen? that is one of the things we have to figure out. how is it an army that size, trained, manned, equipped, etcetera, how is that that the factors of will and leadership and morale just collapsed and we have to answer that to ourselves but the afghan army fought for their country for 20 years and lost a lot of people. >> thank you. senator rosen please. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and thank you for being here with us throughout this long day. you know, i just want to speak about how as americans we are really frustrated, all of us, about the way we withdrew from afghanistan. but we nonetheless understand the difficult position that you and our men and women in uniform on the ground were in last month. so what the american people failed to understand, however, and what i, too, have difficulty accepting, is the idea that the circumstances we found ourselves
in were inevitable. i'd like to ask about a few areas where perhaps we might have taken a different approach that could have given us more time to accomplish the mission. so, general mckenzie, why was it always a responsibility of the u.s. and coalition forces or contractors to maintain afghan aircraft and equipment? and why were the afghan forces either not trained or not given this responsibility over the last 20 years? >> i think you begin with a basic technological literacy of the country, which began when we first had dealings with them in 2001. you know, talking to people coming out of rule by the taliban in a position of sharia law, a stone age approach to these things. you cannot impose technological literacy quickly. that is why it took a long time and we still were not finished with the afghan air force. there's a lot of contract maintenance done for a lot of air forces around the world. the afghan air force is not unique in that regard though in
this case it was particularly telling because they were so dpenent on it. >> so understanding that, would it have been helpful to keep bagram air base open in order to help with any of this going on, any of the evacuation, anybody else coming through the country, another place for our citizens, people from other countries, special siv holders, any of those folks? >> ma'am, i was intimately involved in all the decisions on bagram. in no way would bagram have been able to contribute to the effective use of the afghan air force, its continued maintenance, or bringing people out. i could very briefly tell you that once we went below 2,500 people in afghanistan we lost the ability to hold bagram air base. it was inevitable we were going to have to come out of bagram because we ended up in late june early july with 650 marines and soldiers in the country. it was not feasible to hold bagram under those circumstances. so we were driven by the plan,
which we had all had an opportunity to work, that we were going to come out of bagram. there was no way to keep bagram and go to effective zero in afghanistan. just not possible. >> well, thinking of what we have may have gained or lost as we leave we think about countering adversaries. again, general mckenzie, what is your assessment of the foreign influence in afghanistan, the wake of our withdrawal, and what are the measures that we can take now to prevent adversaries from filling the vacuum created by our departure? >> last week i was in the capital of kazakhstan where i hosted a conference. the kurdish republic, pakistan, other countries, we all met and we talked about that region after the fall of afghanistan. generally what they want is they want assurance. they want to continue to have
ties with the united states because they want alternatives to russia and china. unfortunately because of the geographic location they'll always have to deal with russia and china. i think our partners in the region want a message the united states is not going to turn our back on them even though we left afghanistan. we had a very productive two day conference based on those themes >> i couldn't agree more because i think it makes us more vulnerable if we allow anyone else to fill that vacuum. in the minute i have left i'd like to touch briefly on the fate of afghan women. what we have seen regarding the status of women and the territories the taliban retained control prior to overthrowing the afghan government we know how horrible the conditions are for women. what do you see moving forward for the fate of afghan women? what can we do? what do you see as the future for women's rights in
afghanistan? >> during our long engagement in afghanistan i think we made great strides in the educational and other opportunities for women in afghanistan. i think those are now gravely at risk with the return of the taliban. the levers we have are economic and diplomatic which are not part of the department of defense. i think that is how we have to work the problem. i do think there is opportunity. it will not be a long lived opportunity, a matter of months perhaps, where we can force the taliban down a certain path based on their desire to have international financing, international recognition, the release of sanctions, and other things that are very important to them. so i think we have to be very hard nosed as we negotiate with them going forward to ensure these gains are not lost. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. i really appreciate the hearing today and i'll be submitting more questions for the record. >> thank you, senator rosen. senator blackburn please? >> thank you, mr. chairman. general milley, i want to come back to you. we discussed that you have had
conversations with woodward, costa, rutger, and bender on their books, correct? >> not costa. >> you did not on costa. >> woodward, yes, and others. >> we'll leave that as a point of discussion. okay. in any of these conversations, did you discuss private meetings with the president or white house officials? >> white house officials perhaps. the president i don't think so. >> so you never discussed any of your conversations with president trump? >> with president trump -- >> with any of these authors. >> not a private conversation with president trump. >> did you portray the commander-in-chief in a negative light or make comments that were critical of the commander-in-chief to any of these authors with which you had conversations? >> not my comments or my
observations, no. others that were relayed to me from others perhaps. >> i'm looking forward to your book report. >> great. >> would you see these conversations as an abuse of executive privilege? >> i would not, no. >> you would not. okay. let me ask you this. what is your standard for determining when to leak private conversations with the president? >> i don't leak private conversations with the president. >> you did not. so you had these conversations with the authors but you don't see that as leaking information to which they were not entitled to know? see this is the problem that we have. as a member of this committee, and as someone who represents a lot of our men and women in uniform that are there as we've referenced today i really have an issue with the fact that you will talk to authors but then you all come in here and you say, well we can't tell you what
we told the president and then i have to drag it out of you that the written documents, which under article 2 you're supposed to give those to us, you can't go hide behind somebody's skirts on this, and you don't want to give those to us. so you've repeatedly told this committee that you will not reveal your private conversations with president biden, but then you've leaked this information from your meetings with president trump. so it is important to us that you truthfully respond to us. >> yes. >> on this. >> absolutely >> i think what you did with making time to talk to these authors, burnishing your image, that bluster, but not putting
the focus on afghanistan and what was happening, general milley, that is really disappointing to me. i know it is disappointing to people that have served with you or under you, under your command. it does not serve our nation well. you talked a little bit earlier about the damage. you said damage was the right word to use when assessing what has happened in afghanistan when you look at america's credibility. so how do you look the men and women in the eye that have served under your command? how do you look young men in the eye that are coming to our military academy days and who want to serve and say, you can depend on me. i've got your back. because you know what? i think a lot of these families right now don't feel like you have your back.
the special ops guys i met with friday in my office in nashville that are taking their time, their money, and risking their lives to do a job that the three of you could not do. maybe we're going to remember you three as the three that broke the military. i don't know. but this is causing just a lot of anger from people who have trusted the military. they have felt like the military was one of the most trust worthy institutions. in order to get a name in the book, in order not to be drawn into a political fight what you have manage to do is to politicize the u.s. military, to downgrade our reputation with our allies.
nobody has resigned. nobody has submitted their resignation. we've got thousands of people watching this hearing today that are looking at you all and saying, i can't believe they're sitting there and not answering the questions and trying to punt. i yield back. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. earlier today, we were short on time, and i didn't have the opportunity to thank all three of you for your service serving in combat overseas, multiple deployments. your families have served as well. and i want to thank you personally. it is a big commitment and i understand it. secretary austin since u.s.
troops departed kabul on august 31st the number of evacuation flights has been very small. the state department briefed on friday that only four charter flights have departed with u.s. support and the ability to leave by a land route is even less right now. the testimony today has indicated the mission of facilitating evacuation for americans and vulnerable afghans is ongoing. can you explain what role the military has in ongoing evacuation efforts being led by the state department. >> you are correct senator it is led by the state department and an interagency effort. as general milley and i said earlier we have a senior officer participating in that cell run by ambassador bass and they are reaching out to a number of different entities, veterans groups, many of your colleagues
who have information that can be helpful in contacting people who have a desire to get out and have the right credentials. if they don't have the right credentials are there things we can do to help them obtain those credentials if they have helped us work with us in the past or if they are an american citizen with expired credentials. >> and do you anticipate that there will be transport from third countries, many of our afghan allies have left and now find themselves in a third country. should we expect there will be flights out of those places as well? >> i think those individuals as they work with our embassy personnel in those various countries to help us help them, again, if they qualify as one of the people who helped us in the past, certainly either taking a
routine, commercial flight or taking a charter flight that we can help sponsor, i do anticipate there will be some sort of activity in the future. but again, i don't want to speak for the state department. i will tell you that from a dod perspective we'll do everything we can to help enable this effort. >> throughout this evacuation effort, my office worked closely with groups of former afghan pilots and women who served in addition to american citizens and veterans working to assist them and leaving the country. these are men and women who trained with us, who fought with us, and who are at heightened risk because of it. i'm concerned that they were not a priority in our evacuation efforts and that guidance on immigration options for them has been inadequate. due to the challenges and uncertainties of accessing evacuation flights, many afghan
evacuees sought alternative means of escape flying to these third party countries as i mentioned. how is the defense department working with state right now to ensure that these individuals don't fall through the cracks with regards to resettlement? >> again, you know, i'd have to defer to state in terms of outlining what the resettlement processes are. but in terms of direct activity from the department of defense we don't have much -- we're not a big part of that effort, the resettlement effort in third countries. >> well, thank you, mr. secretary. again, i want to thank all three of you for being here today and thank you for your service. >> thank you very much, senator kelly. senator hawley please. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
general milley i just have one more question about these many book interviews again and i alone can fix it is one book. perils, another book. frankly we did win this election, the inside story of how trump lost is the third book. seems like that is a significant outlay of time. >> i don't think so. i think that -- >> they were short interviews? >> relatively short. i don't think it took an excessive amount of time. >> what was the time frame on these interviews for these three different books? by the way, these are for folks who don't know at home, you said you didn't read the books. i don't think most people probably do. these are d.c. insider tell all type books. but what was the time frame did you say you were doing these interviews? >> i would say it took a couple hours maybe. >> when? what is the time frame? when were you sitting for them? days. >> i can get you the dates. i don't know. >> this year? >> i don't know off the top of my head. i'll get you the dates. >> so 2021?
>> oh, yeah. >> this calendar year? >> i think so, yeah. sure. >> i'm just wondering it is clear this was a priority for you. you did these on the record by the way? all these interviews are on the record with these reporters? >> i do interviews on the record, off the record, and i do background interviews and i do all of that with print media, television media, books, documentaries, all kinds of things. >> why would you do background and off the record interviews? background means can't quote you, background and off the record interviews if the goal is transparency? >> the transparency goes to the fact to make sure we are explaining ourselves, make sure that these authors have correct information. take woodward for example probably 200 people interviewed and they approach my guys to say are these facts true. this is what we heard. >> mm-hmm. >> we clarify and mitigate any incorrect information. >> interesting. well, it is interesting. you're doing these interviews, doing them in 2021.
it just makes me wonder all of these different books were you maybe a little distracted? maybe a little distracted about what was going on in afghanistan? here is why i'm asking. general miller testified to this committee he warned of the rapid erosion of the military situation in afghanistan as early as march of 2021. he further testified that he informed you about his view on this. he also testified that he said that the collapse of the afghan security forces and afghan government could come very fast in 2021. >> hard and fast. >> and he said he informed you of this. he also said he informed secretary austin of this. >> he did. >> now, at the same time, however, in june you were saying and i quote you now, an outright takeover by the taliban is unlikely. that at an armed service knitsee in the house june 23. in july you said the afghan security forces have the capacity to sufficiently fight and defend their country. you also said they were well equipped. on june 17 you told the senate appropriations committee the afghan government had a 325,000 to 350,000 person security force
which we know is a drastic over estimate. a few days later you lowered that to 300,000 which we still know is a drastic over estimate. your generals on the ground, commander on the ground is saying one thing. the taliban has a massive offensive under way from may first on. but yet you told us very different things in public. how do you reconcile those things? what am i missing in. >> well, first of all, scott miller did say hard and fast. he also meant that at least to me and to others that he meant that to be in the fall, october, november, maybe even december time frame >> i heard you say that earlier. i'm curious about that. that wasn't his testimony to this committee. >> well what he said in the committee was hard and fast. he didn't put a date on it is the read out to me. i don't know. did he put a date on it? >> no. you did. that intrigues me. >> he did put a date on it with me and to us and when pressed it was after we leave. point one. which was 31 august.
and probably into the october time frame, maybe thanksgiving. that is about more or less where many of the intel assessments were. >> he said he was a dissenter on the intel assessment and didn't put those qualifiers on his testimony to us. are you saying he shifted his testimony? >> no. i'm saying what he told me was it was likely to be in the october time frame. the intel assessments of centering around november, thanksgiving at the latest christmas. some intel assessments went into the next year. here is my point, senator. the intel assessments had two basic things in my view was the scale and scope plus the speed. all of the intel assessments. all of us got that wrong. there is no question about it. that was a swing and a miss on the intel assessment of 11 days in august. there is nobody that called that. >> my time is -- i appreciate you've made these points. i don't mean to cut you off but my time is be the to expire.
i just want to say this. it seems to me you put a high priority on making sure that you were favorably portrayed by the d.c. press corps. you spent a lot of time doing that. fair enough if that is your priority but at the same time we had a rapidly deteriorating frankly disastrous situation in gn which resulted in the death of 13 soldiers including one from my home state. hundreds of civilians. and hundreds of americans left behind. and in my view, that mission can't be called a success in any way, shape, or form logistical or otherwise. general, i think you should resign. secretary austin, i think you should resign. i think this mission was a catastrophe. i think there is no other way to say it and there has to be accountability. i respectfully submit it should begin with you. thank you. >> the gentleman's time has expired. senator tuberville? >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. general milley, you have spoken today a lot about civilian control of the military. i appreciate the statements made about that today. on june 10th. though i asked for a formal question for the record about
bagram airfield and pointed out that having a major air base within 500 miles of both iranian and chinese borders would be a strategically very invaluable. i asked you about the feasibility of retaining bagram air field as a u.s. base. i am still waiting for a reply. i hope you do see today ignoring, you know, questions that might come up from civilian oversight sometimes back fires on you a little bit. you've apologized for being late for your statement today. the hearing. but you just got to understand the pattern here. i heard senator blackburn say about the book, you know, you got to see how it looks to congress that you've had time to interview and do all these interviews but questions aren't answered. so i'm just troubled by some of those things. also, on august 18th you said, quote, there is nothing that i or anyone else saw that indicated a collapse of the army
and this government in 11 days, end quote. i find it unbelievable with a staff of 3200 people, your staff, and budget of $419 million taxpayer dollars we didn't see the obvious. i do think you saw it because july 11th, 2019 you said, quote, i think pulling out prematurely would be a strategic mistake, end quote. you said here today, you also said that here today. do you agree? >> a hundred percent agree. >> thank you. >> may i comment? >> yeah. go ahead. >> on your first two points. on the intel piece i stay with what i said. nobody called it. 11 days in august. there is nobody who did that. i brought the intel reports, we can go into classified section and happy to go over all of them on the first thing. the bagram thing i did put a very lengthy response in my written statement. i don't know if you had an opportunity to read it yet. i'd encourage you to read it. it is also something general mckenzie put in his. and i can assure you that we
looked at that whole bagram issue very, very carefully. >> and here is what i'm struggling with. general mckenzie, 1945 we left japan, they are one of our biggest allies today we're still there. germany the same way. korea the same way. we had 2500 troops. the war stopped in 2014. we started what, operation resolute support. we're having all these people -- we got to get out of here. folks, we are going to pay for what we just did. i mean, i got young kids. y'all got kids and grand kids. we're going to be back in there fighting. what is your thoughts about that, general mckenzie? i know we're not talking about the president. what do you think about the future of what we've got to do in afghanistan? >> so we have very few levers in afghanistan right now because we've completely pulled out. >> will we be back? >> i think we're always going to
reserve the right to go in to go after isis and al qaeda targets as they present themselves. we have been very clear on that. that is not going to be easy and we'll talk more about that in the closed session. it will not be easy to do that. it will be possible to do that. as for larger engagements with the taliban or whatever government follows them, i mean, that's going to be a hard road from where i sit and i see a very small slice of that. that is really a question for diplomats and others to talk about how our future relationship with a government as a whole will be. but i think, my judgment will be they'll regress significantly in every sphere of activity in afghanistan over the next few years with the taliban in charge. >> we can afford to survive with our military. we got that kind of money. it just burns me up we're eventually going to have to go back there, have problems here. i think we should have looked at it. i know president biden wanted to get out. he told people. president trump wanted to get out. i disagreed with it. i mean, we gave up the best base
in that area and just amazing to me we have to go back and hopefully don't lose this channel. what are your thoughts about how we ended up here, secretary austin? >> well, i don't think it is preordained we have to go back, senator. i would tell you that what you've heard us say is that we recognize that trans national terrorists will migrate toward ungovern spaces. we are also committed to not allowing al qaeda to regenerate and be able to export terror from afghanistan to the united states of america. we'll remain laser focused on that going forward and do everything within our power to make sure that doesn't happen. >> thank you. could i ask you one question? are you against dishonorable discharges to the military for not taking a vaccine? you're the leader of the dod
>> i am the leader. and again, we have a nonjudicial -- excuse me ucmj that really addresses all of the issues in the military and gives our leadership what they need to be able to enforce standards. taking the vaccine is a requirement. again, i'll just leave it at that. >> thank you very much, senator tuberville. thank you very much. this has been a long day. we still have a closed session on svc 217. there is a vote ongoing now. owe i would suggest we reconvene in svc 217 at 3:45. we'll give an opportunity for a very brief respite. with that i will adjourn the open session.
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