Pressed on why evacuations did not begin sooner, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said it was a “State Department call.”
- “We certainly would have liked to see it go faster or sooner,” Austin said. “But, again, they had a number of things to think through as well.”
- Later, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley described the evacuation efforts in the days leading up to the Aug. 31 troop withdrawal deadline as “chaotic,” when asked about the best way to extract U.S. military from Afghanistan.
- “I just want to be clear – we’re talking about two different missions,” Milley said. “The retrograde of troops that is complete by mid-July, and that was done, actually, without any significant incident. And that’s the handover of 11 bases, the bringing out of a lot of equipment … that was done under the command of Gen. Miller.”
- “Noncombatant evacuation operation is different,” Milley said, referring to the Biden administration’s efforts to airlift Americans and Afghan allies from Kabul prior to the troop withdrawal deadline. “Noncombat operation that was done under conditions of great volatility, great violence, great threat.”