It wasn't any one recent mistake that cost the US the war in Afghanistan, Gen. Mark Milley told lawmakers on Wednesday. "It wasn't lost in the last 20 days or even 20 months," the chairman of the Joint Chiefs said. "There's a cumulative effect to a series of strategic decisions that go way back." Those decisions were made by four presidential administrations, he told the House Armed Services Committee. They included shifting resources from the fight in Afghanistan to Iraq, the Washington Post reports, as well as never "effectively dealing with Pakistan," where Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, and other opponents found safety.
"There's an awful lot of causal factors," Milley testified. Another big one was the deal the US reached with the Taliban in 2020 that promised a withdrawal of all US troops, Gen. Frank McKenzie told the committee, per the AP. "The signing of the Doha agreement had a really pernicious effect on the government of Afghanistan and on its military—psychological more than anything else," said McKenzie, the head of Central Command. The deal was struck by former President Trump's administration. The collapse of the Afghan government picked up steam once US troop levels fell below 2,500 after President Biden decided the withdrawal would be complete by September, the general said.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers argued in the hearing over blame for the handling of the withdrawal and whether President Biden was being truthful with the nation on whether the military advised him to keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan—which he didn't do. "Either the president lied to the American people or he legitimately cannot remember the counsel of his top military advisers," Republican Rep. Mike Johnson said. "Which is it?" That would have endangered US lives "for a mission that we had to know was not achievable," Democratic Chairman Adam Smith said. "The president made the right call on that." (Read more Afghanistan war stories.)