Opinion

FLASHBACK: General Milley said Bagram air base 'was not necessary tactically' for Afghanistan withdrawal. Why hasn't Biden fired him yet?

Biden relied on Milley's decision that Bagram wasn't necessary for the Afghanistan withdrawal. Today's tragedy in Kabul demonstrates the opposite was true.
Nick Monroe
Nick Monroe Cleveland, Ohio
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The culpability of General Mark Milley’s guidance of the President on the issue of Afghanistan meets the criteria for Biden to fire him.

Milley told Washington officials that Bagram wasn’t “tactically operationally” necessary for Kabul, back in June. Fast forward to August and it turns out Bagram airfield could’ve saved American lives.

According to Axios: "Biden isn't inclined to fire any senior national security officials over the chaos in Kabul unless the situation drastically deteriorates or there's significant loss of American life, people familiar with the matter tell Axios."

Given the bottleneck circumstance that American forces found themselves in at Kabul airport, and indeed the situation that the Pentagon described earlier today as the inflection point of attack by ISIS against the American military, immediate blame falls on Mark Milley.

For context, the following clip took place during a defense budget request meeting on June 23rd, 2021. The moment in question happened at one hour, ten minutes, and twenty-five seconds.

Rep. Michael Ray Turner of Ohio asked General Milley: “is it at all possible to keep Bagram Air Force Base?”

The question was seemingly directed towards Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin but General Mark Milley elected to answer instead.

“On Bagram, Bagram is not necessary tactically operationally for what we’re gonna try to do here with Afghanistan – consolidate on Kabul, in support of their government."

It was back at the beginning of July when we learned that the Biden administration shut off the electricity and "slipped away" in the middle of the night, without even notifying the new Afghan commander in charge there.

What that left America without in terms of current tactical advantage is best described by a Blackhawk helicopter with Afghanistan theater experience.

During today’s remarks in the aftermath of the Kabul bombings, a reporter asked President Biden to clarify his stance on letting go of Bagram Airfield.

As to whether or not Biden “personally rejected” a request to either hold or recapture Bagram, President Biden responded: “Here’s what I’ve done on the… to answer the last question first. On the tactical questions of how to conduct an evacuation or a war… I gather up all the major military personnel that are in Afghanistan, the commanders,  as well as the Pentagon. And I ask for their best military judgement. What would be the most efficient way to accomplish the mission?”

President Biden followed the advice of General Milley: “They concluded. The military… that Bagram was not much value added. That it was much wiser to focus on Kabul. And so I followed that recommendation.”

By following the recommendations of his military advisors, President Biden put the United States at the mercy of Taliban cooperation. The only guarantee for the survival of any American citizens left on the ground in Kabul, is up to what Biden describes as the Taliban’s self-interest to respect that.

A national embarrassment and a harsh tragedy for the families who lost loved ones today.

Secretary of Defense Austin and General Milley were previously seen together during a press conference where Milley publicly admitted surprise that Afghanistan was taken over by the Taliban at such a breakneck pace.

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