Top US general faces tough questions on Afghanistan

The top US general and the secretary of defence are being questioned in Congress over the military withdrawal from Afghanistan last month.

US troops had to accelerate their withdrawal after Kabul fell to the Taliban on August 15.

Senator and committee leader Jack Reed said that lawmakers want to understand whether the US “missed indicators” of the government’s collapse.

The US has said it will now move toward counter-terrorism missions.

The hearing, held by the Senate armed services committee, comes weeks after a chaotic withdrawal at Kabul airport as foreign powers sought to get their citizens home and thousands of desperate Afghans begged for rescue.

A suicide attack killed 182 people during the withdrawal operation. Thirteen US service personnel and at least 169 Afghans were killed by the airport gate on August 26.

Tuesday’s hearing began with opening testimony from Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin followed by General Mark Milley.

Another US general, Kenneth McKenzie, will also appear. As head of US Central Command, he oversaw the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

US troops first entered Afghanistan in late 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks. By the time they left, the US had spent about $985bn (£724bn) and deployed tens of thousands of troops, peaking at 110,000 in 2011.

In the weeks between the fall of Kabul and the withdrawal deadline of August31, the US evacuated its remaining 4,000 troops. It is also taking about 50,000 Afghan refugees who were airlifted out of Kabul.

As many as 20 people died in the crowds which gathered at the airport in the days after the Taliban takeover.

Gen. Milley is likely to face tough questioning on Tuesday, especially from Republicans, who have called for him to be sacked.

He and Gen. McKenzie will probably be asked about a US drone strike in Kabul on August 29 which killed 10 innocent members of a single family.

After the attack, Gen. McKenzie said US intelligence had tracked a car belonging to one member of the family, an aid worker, believing it was linked to a branch of the Islamic State (IS) group.

Gen. Milley originally described the attack as a “righteous strike”. After the Pentagon established that the dead were all civilians, he backtracked, admitting that he had spoken too soon. -BBC

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