Correspondent in New York
The US military leadership appeared in the US Senate on Tuesday to answer questions from lawmakers after one of the most embarrassing foreign policy chapters for the country: the chaotic and tragic departure from Afghanistan after a two-decade war that has ended with the Taliban in power, the same ones that the US has fought since 2001.
The episode has a significant impact beyond the borders of the US In particular, in the military relationship it maintains with its partners and traditional allies, such as the European Union, which is going through a tumultuous moment. Many of the countries that cooperated with the US in the war in Afghanistan – first to retaliate against the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks, also to oust the Taliban who protected them, then to push for a Western-style government that never finished forging – watched with surprise and outrage at the fall of the US-backed Afghan army, the misguided analysis by US intelligence of the situation on the ground, and the chaos and miscommunication in the evacuation of Kabul.
“I believe that our credibility with allies and partners around the world and with adversaries is being intensely reviewed by them,” he acknowledged to questions from senators. General Mark Milley, US chief of staff On whether leaving Afghanistan does “severe damage” to US credibility, Milley added: “I think ‘damage’ is a word that can be used, yes.”
The recognition of Milley, in the first legislative appearance of the military leadership after the disaster in Afghanistan, comes at a time when the US has shaken relations within NATO. The Aukus agreement, whereby the US and UK will equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines to contain China’s ambitions in the Indian-Pacific region, has enraged France, that he had a previous contract with the Australian Government. This and other initiatives, such as the Quad group – made up of the US, Japan, Australia and India – make it clear that Washington’s foreign policy is reorienting towards Asia and leaving Europe aside.
The Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, He offered senators a different view than MIlley’s. “I think our credibility remains strong,” he said, but admitted that there is no doubt that “there will be people who will question it from now on.”
Blow for Biden
Along with Austin and Milley appeared el general Kenneth McKenzie, commander of the US Central Command, responsible for operations in Afghanistan. In what is a blow to him president of EE.UU., Joe Biden, both McKenzie and Milley assured that they defended the idea of leaving a contingent of 2,500 men in Afghanistan – the same that the previous president, Donald Trump, left at the end of his term- instead of complying with the exit agreed by Trump with the Taliban.
“My advice was not to set fixed deadlines,” Milley said, something neither Trump nor Biden respected. The former agreed with the Taliban a complete withdrawal for May 1, while Biden extended it until September 1. His recommendation was to agree to an exit “established by compliance conditions”, not by dates.
All three agreed that no one expected the Afghan army, in which Washington had invested billions of dollars over the past twenty years, nor plant resistance to the Taliban offensive, which took the country in just eleven days. Intelligence analyzes “completely failed” to anticipate such a scenario, MIlley said, prompting a race exit from Kabul.
Faced with demands from some sectors of the US that the military presence be extended beyond September 1, Milley assured that this would have meant “going to war against the Taliban” and, at the same time, suffering the threat of Islamic State-Khorasan, who attacked the Kabul airport in the last days of the withdrawal, with thirteen US servicemen killed and more than 170 Afghans killed.
The senators used the appearance of the military leadership to portray the failure of Afghanistan as the result of a nefarious deal by Trump with the Taliban – the Democrats – or a lousy management by Biden – the Republicans. Milley preferred to broaden the focus and portrayed the war in Afghanistan – twenty years, nearly 2,500 American lives lost, a waste of $ 2.3 trillion – as a America’s “strategic failure”