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Washington, D.C. – Today, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul questioned retired General Mark A. Milley, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the U.S. Department of Defense, and retired General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., former Commander of United States Central Command at the U.S. Department of Defense, during a hearing examining the Biden administration’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, which left 13 American servicemembers dead and enabled the Taliban’s takeover of the country.




– As Delivered –


Chairman McCaul: “We have Sergeant Tyler Vargas Andrews here today. I want to thank you, sir, for your service and your courage for testifying before this committee almost a year ago to the day. He was a sniper at Abbey Gate and testified to us that he had the suicide bomber in his sights that was identified on the “be on the lookout,” he sent the sniper photos and other related documents to his commanding officer for permission to engage the suicide bomber. Yet that warning was ignored. He never heard back. I and the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, after that testimony, sent a letter to the Department of Defense requesting that these documents and sniper photos be delivered to the Congress, produced to the Congress, by this this document – this letter request. To date, that has been ignored. The Department of Defense has refused. We’ve also requested the testimonies of General Chris Donahue and Admiral Peter Vasely, who were the commanding officers on the ground during the Abbey Gate disaster. To both of you, to General Milley: Do you think that these documents should be turned over to the United States Congress? And do you think that both General Donahue and Admiral Vasely should testify before Congress?”

General Milley: “Sure, I absolutely do I believe in transparency your the board of directors for this corporation called the American government and I believe that you’re entitled to those within the bounds of classification. Absolutely. So whatever documents are out there should be turned over to the appropriate committees of jurisdiction and oversight, and whatever witnesses are needed to establish truth and transparency within the bounds of classification should. Absolutely. Absolutely. That’s why I’m here.”

Chairman McCaul: “Thank you. General McKenzie.”

General McKenzie: “I agree with General Milley and I associated myself with his remarks.”

Chairman McCaul: “So also on accountability, I’ve asked the State Department officials: Who was responsible for the catastrophic emergency evacuation? Not surprisingly, they point their fingers at the Department of Defense, but I want to set the record straight. While the [Department of Defense helped] conduct the emergency evacuation, it’s the State Department that is responsible — under law — for developing the plan and leading the evacuation. Is that your understanding?”

General Milley: “Yes, the State Department is the lead federal agency for planning and execution, oversight over the execution of the noncombatant operation. And the Department of Defense is in support of in other departments or in support of the State Department plans lead federal agency for NEOS. That’s correct.”

General McKenzie: “I agree with that.”

Chairman McCaul: “And it’s the State Department responsible under law again, for requesting the emergency evacuation. Is that correct?”

General Milley: “That is correct. And I think actually, I think that’s done at the ambassadorial level, to tell you the truth. I’d have to check the law, but I think the ambassador can make the decision to execute a NEO but typically it will be him or the Secretary of State.”

Chairman McCaul: “And did the State Department, specifically embassy Kabul, have an evacuation plan for Afghanistan?”

General McKenzie: “So Chairman, every embassy has an evacuation plan. For Afghanistan, and embassy Kabul had had a plan had what we would call an ‘F-77 list,’ which is the list of U.S. citizens and their families that are in the country. And we struggled to gain access to that plan and work with him over the month of July, until we finally got a decision to execute the NEO which as I’ve already mentioned, occurred on the 14th of August. Now, we worked with the embassy before then, but we didn’t have authority to move out and do the things that you have to do to make a NEO happen until the 14th of July — or correction, the 14th of August. And as I noted, we were in extremis at that point.”

Chairman McCaul: “And August 14. Just days before the fall of Kabul in the evacuation of the embassy. August 14 is when they finally put forward this plan?”

General McKenzie: “And that’s when we got the authority to execute the plan.”

Chairman McCaul: “That’s when you got authority. And you urged the White House and State Department to put pen to paper to develop a plan to get Americans and our Afghan allies out of Afghanistan, correct?”

General McKenzie: “Yes, I did. In fact, I was concerned by the middle of July. I was concerned about the different pace of Department of Defense planning, as compared to Department of State planning. And I took an opportunity then to make representations to the Secretary about my concern over that: The fact that we were moving pretty fast on this, as they were not moving fast and I was concerned that we were going to arrive at different locations, just based on it. And I went to the Secretary, we spent some time talking about that, and actually followed up with a written idea and some things that we could do. Send a letter with 10 recommendations to the Secretary of Defense on that.”

Chairman McCaul: “Is that your recollection, General Milley?”

General Milley: “Absolutely. You know, without breaching things like executive privilege, et cetera, my assessments at the time and [General] McKenzie submitted assessments, [General] Scott Miller submitted an assessment. The general consensus of the military up through and including the Secretary of Defense was that the embassy should be coming out roughly speaking the same time we should be coming out, and then after the decisions were made to keep a diplomatic presence there, as the situation deteriorated through the summer in the fall of the provincial capitals, et cetera, we were clearly pressing for early calls to execute a NEO.”

Chairman McCaul: “And they did eventually develop a plan?”

General McKenzie: “Well they had a plan. Like I said, it’s a requirement to have the plan, but it’s one thing to have the plan. It’s the second thing to do the actual coordination on the plan. To talk about the specifics of execution. So having a plan is one thing. Preparing the plan, vetting the plan, coordinating the plan with the people that are going to actually carry you out — the Department of Defense — that’s another set of tasks completely.”

Chairman McCaul: “And that was too little too late.”

General McKenzie: “It was my judgment that it was far too little, far too late.”

Chairman McCaul: “Was that your assessment, General Milley?”

General Milley: “It was, and I would broaden it a little bit by saying it was a pretty consistent assessment by me and other members of the uniformed military — up through and including the Secretary — that the withdrawal of the military forces, and the contractors in the NATO forces that went with it, would ultimately lead — as I said in my opening statement — to a general collapse the [Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF)] and the government. And as I mentioned, the tension was, ‘When would the condition be made?’ It was also our assessment at the time that keeping an embassy open in a war zone — which Afghanistan was — and to do that without the presence of the U.S. military and the contractors, NATO, et cetera, that that embassy would be untenable.”

Chairman McCaul: “And that was your advice to the State Department and the White House?”

General Milley: “Well, as you know, because of the requirements of executive privilege, et cetera, I can tell you what my assessments were at the time, and those were my thoughts at the time.”

Chairman McCaul: “Do you believe that failure to plan timely created the chaos that HKIA airport.”

General Milley: “I think the call to execute the NEO came too late and, as General McKenzie mentioned, was officially logged in on the 14th. At that point in time, the Afghan government senior leadership was preparing to depart and they departed the next day on the 15th. The thousands of Afghan civilians were gathering at the airport. The Afghan security forces were collapsing in the various provincial capitals and although there were some still in and around Kabul, so the general situation at that point was 750 U.S. soldiers in-and-around the embassy. The Turkish troops were required, along with some ANSF to protect HKIA. They melted away. So you had a situation with the U.S. embassy and 750 troops when that NEO was called. Now, we had leaned forward. So I think it’s the ninth, tenth, or eleventh timeframe, we had already put forces on alert, et cetera, but in essence, we alerted, marshaled, [and] deployed the 82nd Airborne Division division-ready brigade, and the [Marine Expeditionary Unit] out of Saudi that was underneath General McKenzie’s control. They rapidly deployed, along with Special Forces, to take control of that airport. It took two to three days. That’s where those videos come from.”

Chairman McCaul: “But they eventually wrested control of that airport. And then General McKenzie, do you agree with that assessment?”

General McKenzie: “I do that reflects the opinion I had at the time and the opinion I have now.”

Chairman McCaul: “I believe the accountability ensures mistakes of the past are not repeated, but from where I sit, the president and this administration refused to acknowledge their failures. There’s a script inscription at the National Archives down the street that reads, ‘What his past is prologue.’ I launched this investigation to make sure that the mistakes made in Afghanistan never, ever happen again.”