(Washington Examiner) He was asked if he had regrets about the withdrawal, to which he responded, “I support the president’s decision,” and when Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) specifically brought up the 13 U.S. service members who were killed in a bombing in the final weeks of the occupation, Austin said, “I don’t have any regrets.”
President Joe Biden had announced the troops were departing Afghanistan on Sept. 11, 2021, the 20-year anniversary of the attacks that prefaced the war. But, in August, the Taliban launched a military offensive and quickly began amassing territory before ultimately overthrowing the U.S.-backed Ghani government.
The U.S. military conducted a noncombatant emergency operation beginning in mid-August, in which they ultimately evacuated roughly 120,000 civilians from Hamid Karzai International Airport, though thousands of allies were left behind to live in fear of the Taliban.
An ISIS-K bomber slipped into the crowd at HKAI on Aug. 26 and detonated a suicide vest, ultimately killing the 13 service members and roughly 170 Afghan civilians.
Austin was asked if there has been any accountability for anyone within the Department of Defense for the “deadly, botched, and embarrassing” withdrawal, and he responded, “Our troops evacuated 124,000 people off that airfield.”
“Has anyone been held accountable for what happened in Afghanistan?” Austin was asked again, to which the secretary responded, “To my knowledge, no.”
Last week, retired Gen. Frank McKenzie, former commander of U.S. Central Command who oversaw the withdrawal, told the Washington Examiner that he supports congressional oversight of the war.
“Well, I would hope that — first of all, I think it’s a good thing,” he said. “I think oversight is a good and necessary thing. So I think it’s commendable that we’re doing this. I think that that’s the function that the Congress provides. I would hope that as they execute this oversight, they will do several things. First, they will examine the totality of the war, which lasted over 20 years and involved multiple administrations.”
A number of House committees have sought documents from Biden administration departments regarding the withdrawal.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) subpoenaed Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this week. He has demanded a copy of a July 13, 2021, cable signed by over two dozen U.S. Embassy members in Kabul criticizing the preparations for the withdrawal from Afghanistan that soon devolved into chaos.