Military leaders address Afghanistan withdrawal

WASHINGTON, D.C. (NBC) – Following President Biden’s speech marking the end of America’s longest war, his defense secretary and top general gave their insights on the lessons and legacy of Afghanistan and the final chaotic effort to get out.

Top military leaders gave their perspective Wednesday on the end of the mission in Afghanistan with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley saying, “This is tough stuff. War is hard.”

The U.S. defense secretary and chairman of the joint chiefs struck a very different tone from President Biden’s defiant speech Tuesday, admitting no operation is perfect and promising a thorough review.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stated, “We want to make sure we learn every lesson that can be learned from this experience.”

But the top brass backed up their commander-in-chief’s comments, calling the evacuation of more than 124,000 people from Kabul an extraordinary success. Secretary of Defense Austin said, “It was heroic, it was historic.”

Critics from both parties are forcefully pushing back, pointing to as many as 200 Americans who were left behind despite the president’s past promise to stay until every American got out.

Ranking Member Armed Services Committee Representative Mike Rogers (R-AL) said, “The decisions that President Biden has made or making were disastrous. I fear America’s less safe because of them.”

The Biden administration is vowing to keep working to get Americans and allies out as the mission shifts from military to diplomatic.

The chairman of the joint chiefs acknowledged the U.S. may need to keep working with the Taliban in the future. “In war, you do what you must,” he said.

The military leaders honored the more than 2,400 U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan including 13 just last week. Milley said, “They literally gave their tomorrows for the tomorrows of people they never knew.” Assuring every veteran of America’s longest war their service was not in vain.

Defense Secretary Austin plans to travel to the Arabian Gulf next week, the epicenter of the massive effort to move Afghan evacuees to new homes.

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