tv Stephanie Ruhle Reports MSNBC September 28, 2021 6:00am-7:01am PDT
got such a good presence because he's a tennessee guy, tennessee beat us four years in a row when i was at alabama. i never liked peyton, then i saw him on "snl," i sort of started to soften up. he's really -- he plays his role so well. he actually, i think, he's moving into being a great presence, a great broadcaster and if eli can just keep his hands in his pocket i think those manning boys have a future. >> so we start as we begin this morning with me asking you all to shut up. that does it for us this morning. stephanie ruhle picks up the coverage right now. ♪♪ >> hi there, i'm stephanie ruhle live from los angeles, california, it is tuesday, september 28th, and it is a massive day in our nation's capitol so let's get smarter. right now the clock is ticking
with president biden's agenda hanging in the balance. lawmakers have a lot to do in essentially 72 hours and this morning they do not appear to be getting any closer to getting it done. overnight speaker pelosi made it clear she does not plan to hammer out the details or the price tag of the massive human infrastructure bill before holding a vote on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package. despite a whole lot of pressure from progressive members of the party, the speaker says the thursday infrastructure vote is still on track. the big question, does she have enough votes to get it through? we will be asking one progressive member of that party that very question later this hour. meanwhile, in the senate republicans blocked a house passed bill that would have funded the government and suspended the debt limit at the same time. please note, not one single republican signed on. a purely political play that could cost our economy billions and billions of dollars. while this morning it is unclear
what schumer and democrats are going to do about this, but whatever it is, they've got to do it fast. government funding expires on thursday and even with all of that drama going on, today's biggest draw on capitol hill could actually be a senate hearing, an extraordinary clash between senators and military brass, it is starting just a few minutes from now, it's when top military leaders will be facing members of congress for the first time since the chaotic withdrawal from afghanistan and the first time since the new book "peril" outlined general mark milley's actions during the final days of the trump presidency. some republicans calling his actions treasonous while some democrats said he could have saved the country. i want to bring in garrett haake on capitol hill, nbc's courtney kube who covers the pentagon, admiral james stavridis and ben rhodes former deputy national security adviser under president obama and kimberly motley an msnbc legal analyst as well as a human rights lawyer who focuses
on the fight in afghanistan. garrett, i saw one headline that said these military leaders are headed for a buzz saw. you have seen all sorts of hearings on the hill. is this one going to be a whole other level? >> reporter: that's a pretty fair metaphor. they have a two-day gauntlet to face with the senate today, a house hearing tomorrow on this same topic. these military leaders will get two different sets of questions, both strategic questions about the decision to pull out from afghanistan, what advice did they give to the president, did he listen to it, then tactical questions, who you did we get that military strike that killed an innocent family to wrong? what happened to lead up to the terrorist attack outside the kabul airport that led to so many service members dead. i think the only saving grace potentially for these military officials is that it's not them who republicans really want to hang out to dry on this issue, it's the president. so i think you can expect these questions to be, you know, asking these military leaders why didn't the president listen to you, what decisions did the
president make? it's not sent gone officials who republicans want to grill, they want to use them as a proxy for joe biden. >> admiral, the new book book "peril" laid out in detail the actions that general milley took to prevent trump from going rogue and launching a war towards the end of his presidency. now, many people say milley's actions protected our country, but there's also real questions about chain of command. can we give him a pass just because we like what he did? the chain of command is there for a reason. >> i agree with what general milley did. i think from all that has been reported, stephanie, we don't have real granularity and i think at some point there might be a transcript or even a recording of his call with the chinese, but from everything i can see he stayed within his remit as chairman in terms of talking to his counterparts, ensuring that there was
communications going back and forth, ensuring that tensions were reduced. i think that's what we wanted chairman of the joint staff to do in a period of time like this. let me add i know mark milley extremely well, he's worked for me on a number of occasions, he's rock solid, kind of looks like a bouncer from a boston bar, but he went to princeton, he's deeply, deeply versed in these issues. he knows his role. i'm confident he stayed within the remit of his job as chairman. >> princeton grads can be bouncers, too. ben, not only did milley do these things, here is what sticks out, he very clearly felt comfortable making his actions public. what do you make of that decision? >> well, i mean, this is someone who has been through a pretty extraordinary period as chairman, it includes the brink of war with iran on a couple of occasions, the fiasco in lafayette park, then the transition. i think, you know, he believed that what he saw up close was
american democracy under severe threat and under severe risk. i think we still don't know the magnitude of the challenges at the pentagon in tra transition period when donald trump moved over a bunch of highly political people and put them in charge of this massive enterprise. and so i think clearly general milley thought he was taking prudent steps to try to protect and preserve both the integrity of the u.s. military as well as american democracy and potential conflicts with adversaries like china as well. so clearly he did want some version of this to be public. i think now he has the opportunity to kind of lay this out in what is sure to be an adversarial hearing with republicans and, frankly, the contrast will be pretty clear between a number of republicans who want to investigate every single thing general milley did in terms of his military to
military exchanges with the chinese government versus not wanting to look back and actually examine why the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff was so concerned in the first place, because you had a president of the united states who was refusing to accede to a peaceful transition of power and the u.s. military of course is committed to ensuring a peaceful transition of power after american elections. >> it could also get adversarial when he's speaking to some democratic lawmakers today about afghanistan. courtney, it's been almost a month since withdrawal. what are the biggest questions these guys are going to have to answer at this point? >> so i think the three that they're really ready for, number one, is the drone strike in late august that killed ten civilians, how did that happen? we should expect to hear a lot about how that's under investigation still, there's actually two investigations, a review and an investigation, into that. so we probably won't hear a whole lot of new details on that but they will get tough questioning on that. the next is the hasty withdrawal, the chaotic scenes we saw at the airport in the first couple of days.
we should expect secretary of defense to defend the withdraw, acknowledge the first couple days were messy but to say they accomplished this tremendous logistical feat getting 120,000 americans, allies and afghans out of that country in just a matter of days. and then the third thing is they will get questions about the deadly bombing at the abbey gate, also in late august, 13 american service members killed, dozens of afghans killed. they will get more questions about how that happened and overall about the intelligence that led to this chaotic withdrawal. how was it that for months american u.s. military and intelligence officials were saying that the taliban would not take kabul until after the u.s. left when, in fact, what we saw was the opposite of that. the taliban rolled through the country offer the summer and we will hear over -- we will hear again that they were able to take over the country in a matter of 11 days. that's not really the case, though, steph. you know, the u.s. military for
all intents and purposes left afghanistan in mid-july when general miller stepped down. it was about a month later before the taliban took kabul and effectively took over that country, but we will hear questions about the intelligence, about how the afghan security forces were not able to hold back the taliban and exactly what happened there, including some deals that the afghans may have made with the taliban in the months leading up to the u.s. withdrawal. one other thing, you know, that we should expect is they will get questions about what their advice was to president biden leading up to the decision to withdraw all american troops. we should expect that they will to a person say that they won't talk about their advice to the president, but the reality is we know now from ensuing reporting that all three of these men recommended keeping troops in afghanistan, steph. >> and we can't forget in those final days 13 young service members lost their lives. kim, the united states has said that it intends to maintain influence in afghanistan through diplomacy and other forms of
soft power, but in the last few days we see headlines about women being barred from kabul university, taliban going back to public hangings. can we still help the afghan people or not? do we actually have any influence? >> well, i think we certainly have influence in afghanistan, especially since the taliban government they want to have some level of legitimacy within the international community. it's important to note that before the fall august 15th that about three quarters of afghanistan's aid in the government relied on foreign money. so the taliban has already come out and said that they definitely want international aid, this he definitely want that legitimacy, however, their actions as you stated shows that they're not willing at least right now to, you know, show the world how they have changed from the taliban of the 1990s. certainly the way that women and girls are being treated is really abominable.
the fact that they have eliminated, for instance, the afghanistan's ministry of women's affairs, that's an issue. the fact that kabul university has turned away women and girls from coming to school. the fact that, you know, there's numerous reports of women being turned away from work and school, and also there's a focus on activists, journalists, as well as those that help foreigners being for toured and being targeted by this new government. so if they want actual legitimacy, they want to actually move forward then they need to put their words into actual actions. >> admiral, courtney just laid it out, there's going to be a lot of questions focused on biden's option before the withdrawal, whether there was adequate planning, but at this point we're out. do those questions still matter? >> i think they do. you always want to do an after-action report and, you know, as you say, you know, was it a good deal to get out or a bad deal to get out?
it's a done deal. but we're going to want to look back not just at the final days of afghanistan, but at the whole sweep of the war, the 20 years. the decisions that were made. and i would say from a military perspective we want to focus on the decision to create an afghan armed forces that looks so much like the u.s. armed forces. dependent on enablers, needing medevac, needing exquisite intelligence. when we pulled those things away the taliban were able to overwhelm the afghans and frankly if you think about it in the context of the american revolution, we built an army of red coats, we should have built more minutemen. we should have built a force that looked more like the taliban, i think we would have had a better chance. we need to understand why we made those decisions. i was certainly part of that as a senior military officer, commanding the nato mission
there in the 2009 and 2013, we're all reexamining our decisions. we owe that to the nation to understand what happened here. >> ben, the administration has made a very clear point to say that we can still hit targets in afghanistan, if necessary. we also know that we saw that air strike in kabul that killed ten civilians, the pentagon had to apologize and said the target probably wasn't terrorist related. so at this point why should the american people trust that the united states still has the intelligence necessary to keep us safe if that is the kind of result we got just a few weeks ago? >> well, i think that's a very good question. i do think what is unique to some extent about afghanistan is that the united states had an extraordinary presence there obviously for 20 years and so even though we don't have a true presence on the ground, we don't have a diplomatic presence on the ground, clearly there are networks of people, significant numbers of afghans that the
united states has contact with and so the combination of that capacity to gather some human intelligence coupled with the other forms of intelligence that we have could allow us to have an understanding of the terrorist threat. i think this question of how and when we use air power, drone strikes, is obviously thrown into sharper relief by that absolute tragic circumstance right before we pulled out. so it's going to be the combination of what is our understanding of the evolving terrorist threat inside of afghanistan coupled with what is our capacity to take action against that threat and how do we better protect against the kind of circumstances that led to that tragic loss of life. it may be to some extent obviously that was a chaotic situation, obviously the united states was particularly amped up in the aftermath of the tragic attack at kabul airport and that can lead to, i think, a lower threshold for action in terms of a strike, but i think what we need is good intelligence and a
high threshold for when we take action when it really threatens us and we know there are not civilians present. >> kim, the withdrawal might be something in the past, but in the present the refugee crisis is still going on. there are people at risk in afghanistan, there are refugees sort of in limbo all over the world. what do you want people to know about them? we can't let this fall out of the headlines just because the withdrawal it over. >> absolutely not. i think that ben actually wrote a piece in the guardian which i actually agreed with where he said that as the united states we have a responsibility to make sure that we're taking care of the refugees that come to our country as well as other countries that are housing and that are now the new post to the afghan evacuees. in addition to this i know that there's certain evacuations that are still going on and we need to recognize that by and large a lot of women are still not being evacuated to afghanistan simply
because of the very obstructive, i guess, requirements that governments are now requiring that people have their documents or passport in order to be [ inaudible ]. historically speaking afghan women just don't have those documents so they're unwittingly still being discriminated against within the country from being evacuated. so i think that we really need to be good hosts to those that are being evacuated from afghanistan. we definitely need to figure out a way to support those afghans who are in very precarious situations within the country because of frankly because of our intervention and so i really hope that the world recognizes that these are people that literally fled their countries with the shirts off their back and they did not want to do that. they would love to still be in afghanistan and live under peace, but they were put in this situation and now it's extremely -- an extremely horrible situation for them still. >> all right. kim, thank you. kim, ben, general, garrett and
courtney, thank you all so much. admiral, excuse me, thank you all so much. we are going to leave it there. we've got a lot to cover this morning and that hearing is going to start in just a few minutes, but first a major walk back, speaker pelosi now says the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill it can't wait, despite push back from progressives in her party who are pushing for the more expensive human infrastructure bill. the big question, who has got the power? who has got the votes? we will be asking one of those progressive lawmakers, congresswoman katie porter next. , congresswoman katie porter next. r workforce overnight out of convenience, or necessity. we can explore uncharted waters, and not only make new discoveries, but get there faster, with better outcomes. with app, cloud and anywhere workspace solutions, vmware helps companies navigate change-- meeting them where they are, and getting them where they want to be. faster. vmware. welcome change.
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breaking overnight, a big change, house speaker nancy pelosi said president biden's hard infrastructure bill needs to get passed separately from the democrat-only human infrastructure bill. that is a huge shift from the speaker after saying for months that she wanted both of them passed at the same time. in the senate republicans blocked a bill to avoid a government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling. treasury secretary janet yellen just sounded the alarm a couple minutes ago saying we have only 20 days, 20 days, until our government defaults. i want to go straight to sahil kapur on capitol hill also with us john bres in a hand. now that speaker pelosi has changed her mind on infrastructure where do we go from here? >> a major reversal from speaker pelosi delinking that infrastructure bill from that social safety net bill, a
conscious uncoupling. this is what centrist democrats have wanted for months, finish the infrastructure bill, treat it separately from the mega bill, celebrate, go home, come back and deal with that several trillion dollar package. that means speaker pelosi is moving closer to having that vote for that senate passed infrastructure bill. progressives have threatened to vote down that bill, as many as 40 to 50 of them because they believe that this is a package deal and worry if the infrastructure bill passes without that multi-trillion dollar bill that the centrist democrats will shrink or kill that package. the big question now for speaker pelosi is can she turn that many votes. there is no more effective and aggressive vote and whip counter than speaker pelosi, but this is going to be a very tall order because the progressives are determined to make sure that these two bills are still linked.
pelosi can change her mind in terms of how the vote schedule works, she can force the vote but also said she is not going to put it on the floor unless it has the votes to pass. republicans are not going to give the speaker much if any help, they want democrats to fight this out and do this on their own. where this goes next is unclear but it is a major reversal. she's moving from siding initially with progressives to siding with the centrists in trying to get this infrastructure bill passed and she and president biden have a lot of work to do in terms of getting the votes to make sure it actually happens on thursday. >> nancy pelosi doesn't do anything in a vacuum, john. we know progressives have threatened over and over to tank the hard infrastructure bill because they do not trust moderates to pass the human infrastructure bill down the line. now that pelosi has shifted, does that mean that she's got progressives on board or is she risking it all? >> no, she is short of the votes. right now she's short. she's short, the question is how many votes she's short.
pramila jayapal has suggested 40 votes, i don't think it's that many but it's probably in the teens or 20s so she has to move a bunch of votes. now, they have a little bit of wiggle room, you know, there will be some republicans who will vote for this, but republicans are going to make democrats cough up 218 votes before they vote for the bill. so whatever help pelosi will get will be late on this bill so she's going to have to work these folks over. the democrats are actually caucusing right now as we speak. the big issue for them right now is the debt limit, which you mentioned before, but she hasn't been talking about this yet but i'm sure she will get around to this. i expect to see her pulling np members throughout the next couple of days just working them over, just saying, you know, what are your concerns, you have my word, you know, we're going to continue to try to work out a top line number with the senate on the reconciliation package on
the big $3.5 trillion bill. so she's going to do, you know, what nancy pelosi does. also she's got joe biden, she has the president of the united states, she's got a big -- she's got a big card to play here so we expect biden to get involved as well. >> well, we can help count those votes by bringing in one of those lawmakers right now. john, sahil, thank you. i want to bring in congresswoman katie porter a democrat from the state of california and a member of the house oversight committee. congresswoman, what are you going to do thursday? all along speaker pelosi said you have to link the two bills together, she has changed her tune. how are you going to vote? >> we can't decide how to vote because we simply are not done with the negotiations. i know this is difficult, it's challenging, it's nerve-racking for all of us, but this is congress doing its job. we are literally as you mentioned caucusing right now as a democratic caucus, the president is engaging in negotiations and the senators are hopefully coming toward, you
know, having an actual agreement to put on the table. the house here has done its work, we've marked up these bills, we have had debates in committee, we have put our offer on the table which is an offer that will make sure that we have a strong and stable economy that's globally competitive for years to come. so the goal is to get the senate to go inn to negotiate and once they start negotiating we can move forward and take both votes for the infrastructure bill and for the reconciliation bill. >> are you concerned, though, that come monday people could say what job? nothing got done. i know you want to get this human infrastructure bill done, it's not just about potholes. significant changes need to be made in our society in policy making to help all of the american people, however, you've got a billion dollar package in hand. if you don't sign that, if you walk away from it, it could end up costing democrats the midterms and the next presidential election which costs a whole lot more than
what's in this $3.5 trillion package. >> well, let's remember that infrastructure alone is not going to give the job creation that we need to have an economic recovery. with 90% of those infrastructure jobs will go to men and these are good, important, high-paying jobs and i support them, but if we want to continue to govern and lead and we want to continue to support president biden, then we need to pass the agenda that he ran on and that is an agenda that means two free years of community college, an agenda that supports child care, it's an agenda that recognizes the crisis that senior care and elder care, community based care is creating in this country and it's dealing with climate change. particularly with younger voters. if we don't do something that is urgent and really necessary on climate change, i don't think we'll see younger voters get out to the polls at all, much less to support, you know, either party. so i think that we are doing the right thing here, which is we are in the crucible, we are having the conversations, the
legislation is being negotiated and that's how this process should work. what we need to see is the senate coming to the table with a bill that they are comfortable supporting. where are their 50 votes because we have the votes in the house for both the reconciliation bill and the infrastructure package. the senate needs to tell us where they are and then we can negotiate and we will get them both done. >> when i look at this human infrastructure bill i think republicans win and lose, democrats win and lose, but do you know who always wins? really, really rich mega donors. how is it that the carried interest loophole for the private equity industry which impacts a tiny universe of super rich people, how is it that that loophole has not been closed? you are the co-sponsor who is focused on closing this loophole and it's not happening. who are the lawmakers who are standing in the way? what are their names? >> well, so, look, the chairman of the ways and means committee is richie neal, the chairman on
the senate side is ron wyden. i support putting that -- eliminating that carried interest loophole into the reconciliation package. >> why isn't it in there? >> because it didn't come out of committee. so, look, i think it can still go back in potentially, the senate has not had its mark up, they will be negotiating without having committee meetings so we could see senator wyden, we could see somebody else pushing to get this in there. look, as we hear that they want to pay for the things in this bill to which i say, yes, we do want to and intend to pay for this entire bill, that things like the carried interest loophole, eliminating that are going to have to be on the table in order to fund the programs that the american people need. >> i don't work in government so i don't -- so to me when i look at this i say in business you might say take the billion dollar package and work on the other one next week. why is that not an option in washington? >> well, because in business, stephanie, what you're doing is you're working with customers, suppliers, people who are all on
your same team who benefit when you benefit. that's not what we're doing. if you were negotiating something with your opponent or someone who opposed your business and wanted to see it fail it would be a very different kind of negotiation. so i just want to be clear about what we heard in the democratic caucus meeting yesterday. there was, you know, near unanimity of everyone supporting the reconciliation package, of supporting the programs in it, in talking about how important those programs are and supporting the infrastructure package. it is ready to go, we are waiting on the senate to come back with what it is comfortable with. and i will tell you i know it's nerve-racking, but this is -- this is how it gets done. you put these deadlines on people and you find out where they really stand and what they're really willing to fight for for the american people. >> this is how the sausage gets made. congresswoman, thank you so much for joining us. we have to leave it there because the senate armed services chairman jack reid just gaveled in in a hearing about the afghan withdrawal and much
more. let's listen? >> -- pending military nominations to the senate. >> there a second? >> second. >> all in favor please say aye. >> the motion carries. thank you. good morning. the committee meets today to discuss the end of american military operations in afghanistan. after nearly 20 years of war, enormous sacrifice by american and coalition military, diplomatic and intelligence personnel and vast u.s. investment the afghan state has failed and the taliban has taken control. we need to understand why and how. as part of this hearing we will seek to understand the factors that contributed to the taliban's rapid takeover of the country and the collapse of the afghan national defense and security forces. while there is a temptation to close the book on afghanistan and simply move on to long-term strategic competition with china and russia, we must capture the lessons of the last two decades
to ensure that our future counterterrorism efforts in afghanistan and elsewhere continue to hold violent extremists at bay. much of this hearing will focus on our final months in afghanistan. i think it is equally important, however, that this committee takes a step back and examines the broader two decade mission that shaped the outcome we face today. our withdraw this summer and the events surround it had did not happen in a vacuum. the road was paved with years of mistakes from our catastrophic pivot to iraq to our fail to handle pakistan's support for the taliban to the dough that are agreement signed by president trump. the members of this committee and witnesses before us have overseen chapters of a war that spanned four presidential administrations, both democratic and republican, and we owe the american people an honest accounting. i hope that this hearing will be frank in searching for the future generations of americans
will not repeat our mistakes. witnesses today are secretary lloyd austin, secretary of defense general mark milley chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and general frank mckenzie commander of u.s. central command. i welcome each of you and thank you for your many years of service. i also want to commend and thank our military men and women for their heroic efforts to evacuate more than 124,000 american citizens, afghan special immigrant visa applicants and other at-risk afghans over 17 days in chaotic and perilous conditions, a remarkable accomplishment. we personally honor the brave american servicemen and women killed and wounded while selflessly protecting those seeking safety. so how did we get here? there are countless decisions and factors that could be pointed to but i would highlight a few that clearly pave the way. earlier in the war we did achieve our original kournlt terrorism objective of significantly degrading al qaeda in afghanistan.
over time, however, that mission morphed into convoluted counter insurgency and nation building. while the u.s. presence in afghanistan true down significantly over the last two years, the lack of a defined strategy continued to erode the mission. one of the clearest inflection points was the ill-fated decision to go to war in iraq. just as we began to achieve momentum in afghanistan, the bush administration's innovation of iraq through critical resources, troops and focus away from the afghan theater, our best opportunity in afghanistan was squandered and we were never able to get back on track. throughout the war we were also unsuccessful in dealing with pakistan's support of the taliban even as american diplomats sat down with pakistani leaders and our forces cooperated on counterterrorism missions, the taliban enjoyed sanctuary inside pakistan with time and space to regroup. more recently the taliban's resurgence can be tied to the dough that are agreement which
president trump signed in 2020. this deal negotiated between the trump administration and the taliban without our coalition allies or even the afghan government present promised the end of the entire international presence in afghanistan, including contractors critical to keeping the afghan air force in the fight, with virtually no stipulations. the taliban with momentum on the battlefield and no incentives on the doha agreement used the final year of the trump administration to boldly escalate violence and began its fateful march towards kabul. despite colossal efforts over multiple administrations both democratic and republican we were unable to help build an afghan government capable of leading its people, an afghan security force capable of defeating the taliban. afghan soldiers fought bravely in the face of massive karlgts but faced with the loss of marne military support and hamstrung by corruption within they were
unable to stand on their own against taliban forces. secretary austin, general milley, general mckenzie, you have each led troops in combat in afghanistan, commanded at the theater level and advised our nation's top leaders on our afghanistan strategy. you have played significant roles throughout this war and i hope that you are forthcoming in your answers today. to begin, i would ask that you provide an accounting of the intelligence and other key assessments that factored into your judgments about the viability of the afghan government and afghan forces and how those trends changed over time. i'd like to know any lessons you have identified for how we can more effectively work by, with and through partner nation forces in the future. additionally i would like to understand what factors you attribute to the taliban's success and whether we missed indicators and warnings of their imminent takeover. finally, while we have transitioned our military from afghanistan after largely achieving our counterterrorism objectives, we must continue to ensure that afghanistan can never again be used as a base
for terrorist groups to conduct operations against the united states and our allies. we must remain vigilant about these threats and ensure that we establish an effective counterterrorism architecture moving forward. to that end i would ask that you update the committee on your plans for over the horizon counterterrorism operations. the united states faces new and evolving threats around the world, to overcome them we must first understand what went wrong to our mission in afghanistan and learn from those missteps. we owe it to the american people. i want to thank you again for being here this morning and i look forward to your testimony. now, before i turn to the ranking member i'm who have for the benefit of my colleagues because we have two rounds of open testimony and a closed session following i will strictly enforce the five minute limit allowed for each member. i intend to recess at 1:00 p.m. and promptly resume at 1:30 p.m.
there will be a classified briefing immediately following the open session sbc 217 the office of senate security. again, before i turn it ranking member inhofe i want to note that the rules of committee state witness testimony should be sent to the committee 48 hours in advance. it is customary that at the very latest testimony arrives the afternoon before the hearing. i am disappointed that the statements of our witnesses were not sent to the committee until late last evening. giving senators and staff very little time to review. i hope that when these witnesses appear again before this committee they will allow the committee -- they will follow the committee rules and customs. now let me turn to ranking member inhofe. >> thank you, mr. chairman. let's make sure that everyone understands that the five minute limit doesn't affect opening statements. let me say a little bit stronger the statement that was made by our chairman that we should -- there's no reason in the world
that they waited until late last night to send this information to us. all these members, they want to be well-informed and they didn't have that opportunity. i want to begin by expressing my sincere gratitude to our service members and our veterans, our men and women in uniform bravely volunteered to go into harm's way for one reason, to keep their fellow americans safe. they represent our very best. especially i want to recognize those who made the ultimate sacrifice and their families on august 26 we were reminded so painfully of what we ask our troops and their families to do. they laid it all on the line for this country. those 13 men and women died trying to evacuate their fellow americans and at-risk afghans from kabul under extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances, so i want to be
perfectly clear the frustration on this committee about the chaotic and deadly withdrawal from afghanistan is not and should never be directed towards our troops. it was president biden and his advisers who put them in that situation. even worse, this was avoidable. everything that happened was foreseen by colleagues on this committee and on the commanders in charge. we saw it coming and so we were here -- here today to understand what happened and why that advice was ignored. general mckenzie, you said in february before the president decided to fully withdrawal from afghanistan, quote, you have to take a conditioned base approach. you expressed your concern, quote, about -- quote, about
actions that the taliban had taken up until this point, meaning that the taliban was not constraining al qaeda, as it had agreed to do so under the conditions of this agreement that it signed with the trump administration. that it was a condition based statement and position. around the same time general miller who was then the commander of the u.s. forces in afghanistan advised his chain of command to keep approximately 2,500 troops in the country. he warned that the taliban might otherwise take over. general mckenzie, you offered a similar warning when you last testified before this committee in april right after the president made his decision to withdrawal. you said, quote, my concern is the ability of the afghan military to hold the ground that they are now on without the
support that they have been used to for many years. throughout the spring we saw many districts quickly fall to the taliban, many without firing a shot. this is why i urged president biden in june to rethink his approach and maintain a small force in afghanistan in order to prevent the collapse we ultimately saw. it was also why the members of this committee on both sides of the aisle spent months urging the administration to evacuate americans and our afghan partners sooner. president biden and his advisers didn't listen to his combat commander, he didn't listen to congress and he failed to anticipate what all of us knew would happen. so in august we all witnessed the horror of the president's own making.
afghans died as they desperately gripped into the departing flights, the taliban is in a stronger position than it had been in since 9/11, the terrorist members are now senior government -- in senior government positions. we went from we will never negotiate with terrorists to we must negotiate with terrorists. you know, in the years that i've been here we've heard over and over again you don't negotiate with terrorists and now it's required. worst of all, 13 brave americans were killed in the evacuation effort, three days later the biden administration said it was -- struck an isis operative. in fact, it killed ten afghan civilians including seven children and then president biden concluded the withdraw -- the draw down by doing the unthinkable, he left the
americans behind. the men and women who serve in uniform, their heroic families and the american people deserve answers. how did this avoidable disaster happen? why were americans left behind? president biden's decision to withdraw has expanded the threat of terrorism and increased the likelihood of an attack on the homeland. the administration is telling the american people that the plan to deal with this -- these threats is something called over the horizon counterterrorism and that we do these types of operations elsewhere in the world. that's misleading at best and dishonest at worst. there is no plan. we have no reliable partners on the ground. we have no bases nearby. the afghan government is now led by terrorists with long ties to al qaeda and we're at the mercy
of pakistan government to get into the afghan air space. even if we can get there, we can't strike al qaeda in afghanistan because we're worried about what the taliban will do to the americans who are still there. and americans are still there. the administration needs to be honest because the -- president biden's dishonest decision the terrorist threat to american families is rising significantly while our ability to deal with these threats has declined decidedly. we will have another hearing with expert witnesses on thursday, just two days from now. we understand the undersecretary of defense has agreed to testify in that hearing. so today is really just a start.
so in conclusion i would just like to say this, president biden made a strategic decision to leave afghanistan which resulted in the death of 13 u.s. service members, the deaths of hundreds of afghan civilians including women and children, that's what terrorists do, and left american citizens surrounded by the very terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and they're still there. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you very much, senator inhofe. secretary -- and chairman milley, the doha agreement -- excuse me. we wanted to give you an opportunity to have opening statements as i've been reminded. so, general austin, you are
recognized. >> chairman reed, ranking member inhofe, members of this committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss our recent draw down and evacuation operations in afghanistan. i'm pleased to be joined by generals milley and mckenzie who i know will be able to provide you with additional context. i'd like to make a few points before turning it over to you and to them, and first i want to say how incredibly proud i am of the men and women of the u.s. armed forces who conducted themselves with tremendous skill and professionalism throughout the war, the draw down and the evacuation. over the course of our nation's longest war, 2,461 of our fellow americans made the ultimate sacrifice, along with more than 20,000 who still bear the wounds of war, some of which cannot be seen on the outside. we can discuss and debate the
decisions, the policies and the turning points since april of this year when the president made clear his intent to end american involvement in this war. we can debate the decisions over 20 years that led us to this point, but i know that you agree with me that one thing not open to debate is the courage and the compassion of our service members who, along with their families, served and sacrificed to ensure that our homeland would never again be attacked the way it was on 9/11. i had the chance to speak with many of them during my trip to the gulf region a few weeks ago, including the marines who lost 11 of their teammates at the abbey gate in kabul on the 26th of august, and i have never been more humbled and inspired. they are rightfully proud of what they accomplished and the lives they saved in such a short span of time. in fact, i'd like to talk to you
a little bit about that issue of time. the reason that our troops were able to get there so quickly is because we planned for just such a contingency. we began thinking about the possibilities of a noncombatant evacuation as far back as this spring. indeed, by late april, two weeks after the president's decision, military planners had crafted a number of evacuation scenarios. in mid may i ordered central command to make preparations for potential -- and two weeks later i began pre-position thing forces in the region to include three infantry battalions. on the 10th of august we ran another tabletop exercise around a noncombatant evacuation scenario. we wanted to be ready and we were. in fact, by the state that the state department called for a neo leading elements of the 24th marine expeditionary unit were already on the ground in kabul. before that weekend was out another 3,000 or so ground
troops had arrived including elements of the 82nd airborne. let's be clear, those first two days were difficult. we all watched with alarm the images of afghans rushing the runway and our aircraft. we all remember the scenes of confusion outside all remember confusion outside the airport. within 48 hours, our troops restored order and process began to take hold. our soldiers, airmen, and marines, in partnership with our allies and partners and our state department colleagues secured the gates, took control of airport operations, and set up a processing system for the tens of thousands of people they would be manifesting on to airplanes. they and our commanders exceeded all expectations. we plan to execute between 70 and 80 -- we plan to evacuate between 70 and 80,000 people. they evacuated more than
124,000. we planned to move between 5,000 and 9,000 people per day. on average, they moved slightly between more than 7,000 per day. on military aircraft alone, we flee more than 327 sorties. at the height of this operation, an aircraft was taking off every 45 minutes. and not a single sortie was missed for fuel or logistical problems. it was the largest airlift in u.s. history and it was executed in 17 days. was it perfect? of course not. we moved so many people so quickly out of kabul that we ran into capacity and screening problems at intermediate staging bases outside afghanistan. and we're still working to get americans out who wish to leave. and we did not get out all our afghan allies enrolled in a special immigrant visa program.
we take that seriously and that's why we're working across the interagency to continue facilitating their departure. even with no military presence on the ground, that part of our mission is not over. and tragically, lives were lost. several afghans killed, climbing aboard an aircraft on that first day. 13 brave u.s. service members and dozens of afghan civilians killed in a terrorist attack on the 26th and we took as many as 10 innocent lives in a drone strike on the 29th. non-combatant evacuations remain among the most challenging military operations, even in the best of circumstances. and the circumstances in august were anything but ideal. extreme heat, a landlocked country, no government, a highly dynamic situation on the ground, and an active, credible, and lethal terrorist threat.
in a span of just two days, from the 13th to the 15th of august, we went from working alongside a democratically elected longtime partner government to coordinating warily with a longtime enemy. we operated in a deeply dangerous environment. and it proved a lesson in pragmatism and professionalism. we learned a lot of other lessons, too. about how to turn an air force base in qatar into an international airport overnight. and how to rapidly screen, process, and manifest large numbers of people. nothing like this has ever been done before and no other military in the world could have pulled it off. and i think that is crucial. now, i know that members of this committee will have questions on many things, such as why we turned over bagram airfield and how real is our over the horizon capability. and why didn't they start evacuations sooner. and why didn't we stay longer to get more people out?
so let me take each in turn. retaining bagram would have required putting as many as 5,000 u.s. troops in harm's way, just to operate and defend it. and it would have contributed little to the mission that we've been assigned. and that was to protect and defend the embassy, which was some 30 miles away. the distance from kabul also rendered bagram of little value in the evacuation. staying at bagram, even for counterterrorism purposes meant staying at war in afghanistan. something that the president made clear that he would not do. as for over the horizon operations, when we use that term, we refer to assets and target analyses that come from outside the country in which the operation occurs. these are effective and fairly common operations. indeed, just days ago, we conducted one such strike in syria, eliminating a senior al qaeda figure. over the horizon operations are
difficult, but absolutely possible. and the intelligence that supports them comes from a variety of sources and not just u.s. boots on the ground. as for when we started evacuations, we offered input to the state department's decision, mindful of their concerns that moving too soon might actually cause the very collapse of the afghan government that we all wanted to avoid. and that moving too late would put our people and our operations at greater risk. and as i said, the fact that our troops were on the ground so quickly is due in large part to our planning and our prepositioning of forces. and as for the mission's end, my judgment remains that extending beyond the end of august would have greatly imperiled our people and our mission. the taliban made clear that their cooperation would end on the first of september.
and as you know, we face grave and growing threats from isis-k. staying longer that we did would have made it even more dangerous for our people. it would not have significantly changed the number of evacuees we could get out. as we consider these tactical issues today, we must also ask ourselves some equally tough questions about the wider war itself. and pause to think about the lessons that we have learned over the past 20 years. did we have the right strategy? did we have too many strategies. did we put too much faith in our ability to build effective afghan institutions, an army, an air force, a police force, and government ministries? we helped build a stage, mr. chairman, but we could not forge a nation. the fact that the afghan army that we and our partners train simply melted away in many cases without firing a shot took us all by surprise. and it would be dishonest to claim otherwise. we feed to consider some
uncomfortable truths. that we didn't fully comprehend the depth of corruption and poor leadership in the senior ranks. that we didn't grasp the damaging effect of frequent and unexplained rotations by president ghani of his commanders. that we didn't anticipate the snowball effect caused by the deals that the taliban commander struck with local leaders in the wake of doha agreement. and that the doha agreement itself had a demoralizing effect on afghan soldiers. and finally, that we failed to grasp that there was only so much for which and for whom many of the afghan forces would fight. we provided the afghan military with equipment and aircraft and the skills to use them. over the years, they often fought bravely. tens of thousands of afghan soldiers and police died. but in the end, we couldn't provide them with the will to win, at least not all of them. and as a veteran of that war, i
am personally reckoning with all of that. but i hope, as i said at the outset, that we do not allow a debate about how this war ended to cloud our pride and the way that our people fought it. they prevented another 9/11. they showed extraordinary courage and compassion in the wars' last days, and they made lasting progress in afghanistan that the taliban will find difficult to reverse and that the international community should work hard to preserve. now, our service members and civilians face a new mission. helping these afghan evacuees move on to new lives and new places. and they are performing that magnificently, as well. i spent time with some of them up at joint base maguire lake yesterday. i know you share my profound gratitude for their professionalism and i appreciate the support this committee continues to provide them and their families.
thank you. >> thank you, mr. secretary. general milley, i believe you have a statement? >> chairman reid, ranking member, thank you for the opportunity to be here with general austin and secretary mckenzie to discuss afghanistan. as you mentioned up front, we submitted matters for the record, a lengthy statement of this cutdown oral version. and i know it got too late. during the past 20 years, the men and women of the united states military along with our allies and partners fought the taliban, brought osama bin laden to justice, denied al qaeda sanctuary and protected our homeland for two consecutive decades. over 800,000 of us in uniform served in afghanistan. most importantly, 2,461 of us gave the ultimate sacrifice. while 20,698 of us were wounded in action and countless others of us suffer the invisible
wounds of war. there's no doubt in my mind that our efforts prevented an attack on the homeland from afghanistan, which was our core original mission. and everyone who has served in that war has been proud. your service mattered. beginning in 2011, we steadily drew down our troop numbers, consolidated and closed bases and retrograded equipment from afghanistan. at the peak in 2011, we had 97,000 u.s. troops alongside 41,000 nato troops in afghanistan. ten years later, when ambassador calisade signed the agreement on 29, february, 2020, the united states had 12,600 u.s. troops with 8,000 nato and 10,500 contractors. this has been a