Portman Statement on Afghanistan Testimony by Military Officials

September 29, 2021 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement today regarding testimony of top military officials in the Biden administration before Congress contradicting statements from President Biden regarding the administration’s plan to fully withdraw from Afghanistan by August 31:

“I strongly disagreed with President Biden’s decision to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan and always believed that any withdrawal should have been based on conditions on the ground and not an arbitrary, politically driven timeline. As we recently witnessed from the poorly planned and poorly executed withdrawal, it was only due to the bravery of our service members and diplomats in Kabul that we were able to evacuate a portion of our American citizens and Afghan allies. The Biden administration placed these brave men and women in an impossible situation as a result of their faulty strategic planning and adherence to an exit strategy that was not coordinated with our allies and ignored the realities in Afghanistan.

“Yesterday at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley and the Commander of United States Central Command, General Kenneth McKenzie, testified under oath that it was their judgment that the U.S. should maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan. Yet on August 19, President Biden told ABC News that he did not recall his military commanders recommending that he keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.

“After listening to the testimony from our nation’s top military commanders regarding the disastrous withdrawal, I am even more troubled because General Milley and McKenzie’s statements directly contradict President Biden’s claims. It is important that the President clearly explain to the American people exactly what advice he received from his commanders and why he chose not to follow it. Regardless the President must take full responsibility for the reckless decision to withdraw forces based on an arbitrary deadline in contradiction to the advice of those advising him on military matters.

“While it is always the President’s prerogative to decide which military advice to accept and which to reject, the President must provide an accurate accounting of the decision process which led to this outcome. He is ultimately accountable for the rushed and chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan that resulted in the loss of 13 American service members, including Navy Fleet Marine Force Hospital Corpsman Max Soviak from Berlin Heights, Ohio. It is deeply disappointing that members of this administration have pointed to the events in August of this year as a success. As General Milley himself stated in his testimony, this evacuation was ‘a strategic failure.’ This process and outcome is not a model for future administrations to follow.”

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