Nothing I saw indicated a collapse of this government in 11 days: Top US General
Top US General Mark Milley says he wasn’t aware of any intelligence reports indicating the Afghan military and government would collapse in just 11 days — despite claims officials had been warning for months of a quick Taliban takeover.
During a press briefing, Milley said all intelligence reports regarding a Taliban threat “indicated multiple scenarios were possible.”
“The timeframe of rapid collapse was widely estimated and ranged from weeks to months and even years following our departure,” he said.
“There was nothing that I saw that indicated a collapse of this army and this government in 11 days.”
Harrowing scenes are emerging out of Kabul this week as thousands of Afghans who helped the US fight the war plead with US troops to evacuate them.
Many fear they will be killed by the Taliban if they are left behind.
“We fully intend to evacuate all American citizen who wants to get out of Afghanistan,” Milley said.
Of the Afghans who helped the US during the 20-year war and are now trying to flee the Taliban, Milley said: “We will not leave them behind. We will get out as many as possible.”
The United States has evacuated 5,000 people in the three days since the Taliban overthrew the Western-backed government, Milley said.
It is not clear how many of them are Afghans.
Milley said the 4,500 US troops currently on the ground in Kabul are focused on protecting the airport so evacuations can continue.
“Our mission is to secure that airfield, defend that airfield and evacuate all those who have been faithful to us,” he said.
Milley described the current situation as “stable” but warned there were ongoing threats.
He vowed to “take immediate military action with hesitation” against any threats.
The US was forced to rush in additional troops Monday to help secure the airport after thousands of Afghans stormed onto the tarmac and tried to climb onboard US military planes.
US officials insist the Taliban has agreed to allow a “safe passage” for civilians struggling to get to the airport in Kabul.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said officials were speaking regularly to the Taliban to help Afghans get to the airport.
He admitted he didn’t know how many Americans were stranded there.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday US troops don’t have the capability to help people get to the airport to be evacuated because they need to focus on keeping the area secured.
“We’re going to do everything we can to continue to try and deconflict and create passageways for them to get to the airfield. I don’t have the capability to go out and extend operations currently into Kabul,” Austin said.
He added there “have been no hostile interactions with the Taliban” so far.
“We do hear reports of people getting turned away from checkpoints. We’ve gone back and … reinforced to the Taliban, that if they have credentials they need to be allowed through – and so that’s working better than it was,” Austin said.
Both Milley and Austin refused to say whether there were any regrets about not starting evacuations sooner.
“It’s a pretty dynamic environment as you would imagine. And, of course, there have been things that have occurred that that you know we do have reports of people getting turned away from checkpoints, we’ve gone back and tried to reinforce to the Taliban that if they have credentials they need to be through and so that’s working better than it was,” Milley said.
When pressed on whether the US should have pushed harder to evacuate when the Taliban offensive began to gain traction a month ago, Milley said there is going to be After-Action Reviews (AARs), but remains focused on the current mission.
“Like I set up front, we are focused on the mission. We are focused on getting out American citizens, SIV sand Afghans who are at risk,” he told reporters. “There will be time to focus on regrets, right now, this is not that time.”