‘No Regrets’: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s Stunning Testimony Regarding Botched Afghanistan Withdrawal

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AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley testified before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday morning. The hearing was to address the Fiscal Year 2024 Defense Budget Request.

During the testimony, Austin was questioned by Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) regarding the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in late August of 2021. When asked by Banks whether he had any regrets about the withdrawal, Austin gave a stunning response:

“I don’t have any regrets,” said Austin. When further pressed as to accountability, Austin at first demurred then stated he was not aware of anyone being held to account regarding the withdrawal.

Banks: Secretary Austin, last week, General McKenzie repeated that he has many regrets about the botched, deadly, and embarrassing withdrawal from Afghanistan, and that he supports investigations into that withdrawal. A moment ago, you didn’t — you said you executed the President’s order, you didn’t tell us what you advised the President to do, but do you have regrets about the withdrawal from Afghanistan?

Austin: I support the President’s decision.

Banks: Do you have regrets about the withdrawal, or how the withdrawal occurred from Afghanistan that cost the lives of 13 of our servicemembers?

Austin: I don’t have any regrets —

Banks: You don’t have any regrets. Secretary Austin — that’s very telling — Secretary Austin, has there ever been any accountability for anyone within the Department of Defense for the deadly, botched, and embarrassing withdrawal from Afghanistan? Any accountability?

Austin: Hey, listen, our troops evacuated 124,000 people off that airfield, and —

Banks: Has anyone been held accountable? If a Navy captain grounded a ship, what happens immediately?

Austin: Typically, that captain is removed.

Banks: That captain is removed. Has anyone been held accountable for what happened in Afghanistan?

Austin: To my knowledge, no.

Banks: You don’t regret it, no one’s ever been held accountable. Mr. Chairman, this is why this Republican majority must provide the accountability that this administration wants to sweep under the rug with what happened in Afghanistan.

RedState covered the Afghanistan withdrawal extensively, including on-the-ground reporting from Hollie McKay. From the tragedy of Afghans falling to their deaths while clinging to a C-17 transport aircraft, to the horrific suicide bombing that resulted in the loss of 13 U.S. servicemembers, to the hundreds of Americans who were left stranded when the U.S. evacuated.

Over 18 months later, the fallout from the Afghanistan debacle continues. Recently, Bob Hoge reported on the staggering amount of military gear abandoned by the US upon its departure.

When Joe Biden ordered the chaotic, deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, he didn’t just leave behind our dignity, he also left behind billions in weapons and armaments. Although we’ve known that most of that equipment ended up in Taliban hands, new photos and videos are emerging showing just how much we essentially donated to the violent group.

And still no accountability.

It would be impossible to sum up the withdrawal more succinctly than does Rep. Banks when he refers to it as “deadly, botched, and embarrassing.” That Secretary Austin still maintains he has no regrets about the withdrawal is very telling indeed.

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