By Spy Uganda Correspondent
The United States’ top general conceded in a stark admission Wednesday that the U.S. “lost” its 20-year war in Afghanistan.
“It is clear — it is obvious to all of us — that the war in Afghanistan did not end on the terms we wanted, with the Taliban in power in Kabul,” Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee.
“The war was a strategic failure,” Milley told a committee hearing about the U.S. troop pullout from Afghanistan and the chaotic evacuation from the capital Kabul.
“It wasn’t lost in the last 20 days or even 20 months,” the general said. “There’s a cumulative effect to a series of strategic decisions that go way back,” added Milley, the top military advisor to President Joe Biden, who ordered an end to the two-decade U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan.
“Whenever you get some phenomenon like a war that is lost — and it has been, in the sense of we accomplished our strategic task of protecting America against al-Qaida, but certainly the end state is a whole lot different than what we wanted,” Milley said. “So whenever a phenomenon like that happens, there’s an awful lot of causal factors,” he said. “And we’re going to have to figure that out. A lot of lessons learned here.”
Milley listed a number of factors responsible for the U.S. defeat, going back to a missed opportunity to capture or kill al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora soon after the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.
He also cited the 2003 decision to invade Iraq, which shifted U.S. troops away from Afghanistan, “not effectively dealing with Pakistan as a (Taliban) sanctuary” and pulling advisers out of Afghanistan a few years ago.
In April, Biden ordered a complete pullout of U.S. forces from Afghanistan by Aug. 31, following through on an agreement reached with the Taliban by former President Donald Trump.
Milley and Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, told a Senate committee Tuesday they had personally recommended that some 2,500 troops remain on the ground in Afghanistan.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden had received “split” advice about what to do in Afghanistan, which the United States invaded following Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaida attacks on New York and Washington.
“Ultimately, it’s up to the commander-in-chief to make a decision,” Psaki said. “He made a decision that it was time to end a 20-year war.”