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 - Sputnik International, 1920, 07.09.2021
The future appears uncertain for Afghanistan following its takeover by the Taliban as US-led forces withdrew from the country after 20 years of occupation. As other nations continue to evacuate their citizens, the Central Asian country has been struck by political and humanitarian crises.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan and plans for future counterterrorism operations, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 28, 2021. - Sputnik International

US Top Military Officials Testify Before Senate Armed Services Committee on Afghanistan

The US completed the withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan on 31 August, two weeks after the Taliban* took control of the country, toppling the Western-backed government led by President Ashraf Ghani.
Sputnik goes live from the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington D.C., where US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, Chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley and the United States Central Command’s head General Kenneth McKenzie have arrived to testify on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan and plans for future counterterrorism operations.
The last US servicemen left Afghanistan at the end of August following a nearly 20-year long mission. The US withdrawal took place in accordance with the agreement signed between the US presidential administration and the Taliban* last year. On 15 August 2021, the Taliban announced that they had captured the capital Kabul and announced the end of a war and the beginning of its rule in the country.
Follow Sputnik's live feed to find out more.
*The Taliban is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia.
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18:16 GMT 28.09.2021
Meanwhile: White House Says Biden Received a Range of Viewpoints on Afghanistan
According to the White House, President Joe Biden received a range of viewpoints on Afghanistan, but did not think leaving troops on the ground in the country was in the interest of the American people.
If the US had kept 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan, it would've had to increasethe number of troops and would've been at war with the Taliban, the White House said.
U.S. Soldiers, assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, prepare to board a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft to leave Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 30, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.09.2021
Psaki: Generals' Advice to Keep 2,500 Troops in Afghanistan 'Not a Long-Standing Recommendation'
17:55 GMT 28.09.2021
Taliban-Pakistan Relations Will Become More Complicated in Wake of US Pullout, Gen. McKenzie Says
17:49 GMT 28.09.2021
Pentagon Chief Says 'Three-Star Review' Underway on Botched Kabul Strike
Pentagon Chief Lloyd Austin has replied to a question from Republican Senator Kevin Cramer about the botched US drone strike in Kabul that was supposed to target Daesh-K terrorists but killed multiple civilians instead.
"I've directed a three-star review of this incident, Gen. Mckenzie did an initial investigation, and I directed a three-star review and so I won't make any comments," he said.
17:47 GMT 28.09.2021
US CENTCOM Commander McKenzie Says It's 'Yet to Be Seen' if Terrorists Can Be Stopped From Using Afghan Soil as Launchpad
"I think we're still seeing how al-Qaeda and ISIS [Daesh] are configuring themselves against the Taliban. We're still seeing whether the Taliban is going to do, so I think — I would not say I'm confident that that's going to be on the ground yet. We could get to that point but I do not have that level of confidence," he said.
Al-Qaeda, Daesh (also known as ISIS/Islamic State) and the Taliban are terrorist groups banned in Russia and many other nations.
16:33 GMT 28.09.2021
Austin Does Not Know About Any Amount of Money Ghani Had When Fleeing Afghanistan
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a Congressional testimony on Tuesday that he did not know about the amount of money former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had when he was fleeing the country.
"I think that he [Ghani] may be in UAE, not certain of that, this is the last report that I have, in terms of any money that he may have taken with him I have no knowledge on any amounts of money," Austin said.
Ghani fled abroad as Taliban reached Kabul, and the government collapsed. Media reports said the exiled leader fled the country for the United Arab Emirates with $169 million in US $100 bills stuffed in duffel bags. Ghani subsequently denied the reports, claiming he arrived in the UAE penniless.
15:55 GMT 28.09.2021
US Would Have Gone to War With Taliban If Troops Were to Stay in Afghanistan Past 31 August Deadline, Milley Says
15:40 GMT 28.09.2021
Generals Mark Milley, Kenneth McKenzie Dispute Biden's Claim al-Qaeda is Gone From Afghanistan
15:38 GMT 28.09.2021
Milley Says He's Not Going to Resign Over Biden Rejecting His Afghanistan Withdrawal Advice
Milley said during a congressional hearing on Tuesday that he's not going to resign because President Joe Biden rejected his advice on the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
"Just because we are generals, and it would be an incredible act of political defiance for a commissioned officer to just resign because my advice is not taken. This country doesn't want generals figuring out what orders we're going to accept and do or not. I'm not going to resign. There's no way.”
Milley also said he would resign if the orders he received were illegal, but noted he believes all orders from the civilian authorities regarding the US withdrawal from Afghanistan were legal.
Milley pointed out that it was his opinion in the fall of 2020 to leave at least 2,500 troops in Afghanistan after the US withdrawal, appearing to contradict Biden’s claims that he couldn’t “recall” any such recommendation.
15:34 GMT 28.09.2021
Senator Tom Cotton Grills Milley in Congress: 'Why Haven't You Resigned?'
15:21 GMT 28.09.2021
Senator Joni Ernst Says President Biden's 'Blunders Cannot be Erased'
According to Ernst, Biden "put a cheap political victory of withdrawal timeline, timed to the 20th anniversary of 9/11 on his calendar and executed his vision with little regard for American lives or the real threats that we face."
"I don't understand how we fulfill a diplomatic mission after August 31 when there are absolutely no diplomats on the ground in Afghanistan. They're gone. They've been evacuated. Who do we hand that mission off to, when there's nobody there to complete it?" Ernst said.
15:02 GMT 28.09.2021
Milley Believes US 'Absolutely Missed' Swift Collapse of Afghan Government and Military
"We absolutely missed the rapid 11-day collapse of the Afghan military and the collapse of their government. I think there was a lot of intelligence that clearly indicated that after we withdrew, that it was a likely outcome of a collapse of the military, a collapse of the government," Milley said. "Most of those intelligence assessments indicated that would occur late fall, perhaps early winter, Kabul might hold till next spring. While we were there, though, up through 31 August, there's no intel assessment that says the government is going to collapse and the military is going to collapse in 11 days that I'm aware of."
14:56 GMT 28.09.2021
US Generals Tell Senate Committee They Assessed in 2020 That 2,500-3,500 Troops Should've Been Kept in Afghanistan to Allow for Negotiated Solution
14:47 GMT 28.09.2021
Pentagon Chief Dodges Question on Whether the US Has Asked for Access to Russian Bases in Central Asia to Monitor Afghanistan
"I can assure you that we are not seeking Russia's permission to do anything. We are not seeking approval from Russia about anything," Secretary of Defense Austin says of reported conversations with Russia about using military bases in Central Asia for over the horizon operations.
14:35 GMT 28.09.2021
General Milley Admits US Credibility Has Been Damaged in Wake of Afghan Withdrawal
The United States' credibility among allies and partners globally can be described as "damaged" after its withdrawal from Afghanistan, Milley said in congressional testimony on Tuesday.
"I think that our credibility with our allies and partners around the world and with advisories is being intensely reviewed by them to see which way this is going to go. And I think that 'damaged' is one word that could be used."
Meanwhile, replying to the same question. Pentagon Chief Austin said that US credibility among its allies remains solid.

"I would say US military, and United States of America - people place great trust and confidence [in it]," he said.
14:19 GMT 28.09.2021
Austin Calls Afghanistan Evacuation 'Largest Airlift Conducted in US History'
"We planned to evacuate between 70,000-80,000 people. They evacuated more than 124,000. We planned to move between 5,000-9,000 people per day. On average, they moved slightly more than 7,000 per day. At the height of this operation, an aircraft was taking off every 45 minutes," he said.
"It was the largest airlift conducted in US history, and it was executed in 17 days," Austin added, admitting that the rescue mission was not ideal. "We moved so many people so quickly out of Kabul that we ran into capacity and screening problems at intermediate staging bases outside of Afghanistan," he said.
The Pentagon chief told the Senate Committee that the military is still working to get Americans and Afghan allies out who wish to leave the country.
14:14 GMT 28.09.2021
Milley Defends Call to Chinese Counterpart at End of Trump Presidency: 'My Task Was to De-escalate'
The top US military officer told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that it was his job to reassure the Chinese that ex-US President wasn't going to attack China.
"I know, I am certain, that President Trump did not intend to attack the Chinese and it was my directed responsibility to convey presidential orders and intent. My task at that time was to de-escalate. My message again was consistent: stay calm, steady, and deescalate. We are not going to attack you."
"These military-to-military communications at the highest level are critical to the security of the United States in order to deconflict military actions, manage crises, and prevent war between great powers that are armed with the world's most deadliest weapons," Milley continued.
It's been revealed that Milley had called his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People's Liberation Army, to assure him that the US under Donald Trump was not planning to suddenly attack China. Details of two calls were made public in excerpts from the recently released book "Peril"' by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
"At no time was I attempting to change or influence the process, usurp authority, or insert myself into the chain of command," Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
A number of US lawmakers have said that Milley overstepped his authority, and called on the current president, Joe Biden, to fire him. Donald Trump has slammed Milley as treasonous and said that the general had "never told me about calls being made to China."
 U.S. President Donald Trump and Gen. Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the United States Army, speak at the 119th Army-Navy football game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. December 8, 2018 - Sputnik International, 1920, 19.09.2021
Trump Slams ‘Dumbo’ Milley Over Secret Convo With PLA, Says ‘Never Even Thought’ to Attack China
14:08 GMT 28.09.2021
'Perhaps in as Little as 12 Months': Milley Warns Reconstituted al-Qaeda 'With Aspirations' to Attack the US is a 'Very Real Possibility'
14:03 GMT 28.09.2021
General Milley Stresses That Taliban Remains a Terrorist Group, Still Hasn't Broken Ties With Al-Qaeda
The Taliban has never renounced al-Qaeda (both terror groups are banned in Russia and many other nations) or broke its affiliation with them, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said in a congressional testimony on Tuesday.
"We must remember that the Taliban was and remains a terrorist organization, and they still have not broken ties with Al-Qaeda. I have no illusions who we are dealing with.It remains to be seen whether or not the Taliban can consolidate power or if the country will further fracture into civil war. But we must continue to protect the United States of America and it people from terrorist attacks coming from Afghanistan," Milley said.
14:02 GMT 28.09.2021
Pentagon Chief Insists Doha Agreement Between Trump Admin & Taliban 'Had a Demoralising Effect' on Afghan Soldiers
“We did not anticipate the snowballing effect caused by the deals that the Taliban commander struck with local leaders in the wake of the Doha agreement, and that the Doha agreement itself had a demoralizing effect on Afghan soldiers,” Austin said in a testimony to the US Senate Committee on Armed Services.
14:01 GMT 28.09.2021
'We Helped Build a State, But We Could Not Forge a Nation' in Afghanistan, Austin Tells Senate Committee
"We need to consider some uncomfortable truths: that we did not fully comprehend the depth of corruption and poor leadership in their senior ranks, that we did not grasp the damaging effect of frequent and unexplained rotations by President [Ashraf] Ghani of his commanders...," Austin said.
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