U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Chairman Mark Milley discussed the situation in Afghanistan during a Wednesday press conference as the U.S. military seeks to evacuate Americans and others from the country.
Milley said during the briefing that the speed of the collapse of Afghan forces and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan had not been anticipated.
"I have previously said from this podium and in sworn testimony before Congress that the intelligence clearly indicated multiple scenarios were possible. One of those was an outright Taliban takeover following a rapid collapse of the Afghan Security Forces and the government," he said.
But Milley noted that the estimated time period for a swift collapse "ranged from weeks, to months, and even years, following our departure. There was nothing that I or anyone else saw that indicated a collapse of this army and this government in 11 days."
Milley said that U.S. troops, American citizens, and Afghans who have backed the U.S. are currently at risk.
He said that the American military intends "to successfully evacuate all American citizens who want to get out of Afghanistan," noting that they represent "priority number one."
"In addition, we intend to evacuate those who've been supporting us for years, and we're not gonna leave 'em behind. And we will get out as many as possible," Milley said.
The military is working to evacuate people from the Kabul airport.
Milley noted that the U.S. State Department "is working with the Taliban to facilitate safe passage of American citizens, U.S. passport holders, to the airport."
He also noted that, "We have capability to do other things if necessary." In response to a question, he indicated that going to get people would represent a policy decision, and said that "if directed we have capabilities that can execute whatever we're directed."
When asked whether the U.S. has the capability to go out and collect Americans, Secretary Austin said that they do not have the capability to go out and gather large amounts of people.
The Biden administration has been heavily criticized by Republicans for bungling America's troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) blasted the Biden administration's "stunning incompetence."
"This was humiliating. It was an embarrassment. The president oughta hide his head in a bag," Kennedy declared.
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