WASHINGTON—During the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) hearing on President Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) today pressed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, on the decision to abandon Bagram Airfield and pointed to General Milley’s prior comment that pulling out of Afghanistan would be a “strategic mistake.” Senator Tuberville went onto question General McKenzie, Commander of U.S. Central Command, about the possibility of the U.S. having to return to Afghanistan as a result of President Biden’s botched withdrawal.
Excerpts from Senator Tuberville’s remarks can be found below, and the full speech can be viewed here.
On the Decision to Leave Bagram Airfield:
TUBERVILLE: “General Milley, you’ve spoken today a lot about civilian control of the military. I appreciate the statements you made about that today. On June 10th though, I asked for formal questions for the record about Bagram Airfield, and I pointed out that having a major air base within 500 miles of both Iranian and Chinese borders would be strategically, very strategically invaluable. I asked you about the feasibility of retaining Bagram Airfield as a U.S. base. I’m still waiting for a reply. I hope you do see today ignoring questions that might come up from civilian oversight sometimes backfires on you a little bit. You apologize for being late for your statement today… but you just gotta understand the pattern here.”
On Military Concerns About a Hasty Afghanistan Exit:
TUBERVILLE: “On August 18th, you said, ‘There is nothing that I or anyone else saw that indicated the collapse of the army in this government in 11 days.’ I find it unbelievable with your staff of 3,200 people on a budget of 419 million taxpayer dollars, that we didn’t see the obvious. But I do think you saw it because July 11th, 2019, you said, ‘I think pulling out prematurely would be a strategic mistake.’ You also said that here today, you agree?”
MILLEY: “I 100 percent agree.”
On the Possibility of Returning to Afghanistan:
TUBERVILLE: “Folks, we are going to pay for what we just did. I mean, I got young kids, ya’ll got kids and grandkids, and we’re going to be back in there fighting. What do you think about the future of what we’ve got to do in Afghanistan?”
MCKENZIE: “So we have very few levers in Afghanistan right now because we’ve completely pulled out.”
TUBERVILLE: “Will we be back?”
MCKENZIE: “I think we’re always going to reserve the right to go in to go after ISIS and al Qaeda targets as they present themselves. We’ve been very clear on that. And that’s not going to be easy. And we’ll talk a little bit more about that in the closed session. It will not be easy to do that. It will be possible to do that. I think, my judgment will be, they’re going to regress significantly in every sphere of activity in Afghanistan over the next few years with the Taliban in charge.”
Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees.