EXCLUSIVE: Military expert says General Scott Miller gets the lion’s share of blame for Afghanistan debacle, claiming by abandoning Bagram he prioritized politics instead of questioning Biden’s flawed decision to reduce US troops to just 700
- Bill Roggio, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a war on terror think tank, has blamed the Afghanistan debacle on US General Scott Miller
- But Generals Kenneth Mackenzie and Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley and ultimately President Biden share in the blame, the defense analyst said
- ‘I think Milley understands what a mess this is and what a mistake that was. He’s certainly trying to let the s**t roll downhill,’ he told DailyMail.com
- General Miller was behind the decision to abandon the Bagram airbase and use Hamid Karzai International Airport for the evacuation
- ‘Miller was the ground commander at the time and proposed the plan, worked on it with [General Kenneth] Mackenzie, then they pushed it up,’ he added
- Roggio said Biden also insisted on a reducing US forces to just 700 troops – a flawed plan that he believes should have been challenged by military leaders
- The move backfired when the Taliban swarmed into Kabul within days, surrounding the airport and thwarting the evacuation of US citizens and Afghans
- ‘No one had the vision to say if the Taliban is able to run through Kabul before we execute our withdrawal we’re going to be in a world of hurt,’ Roggio added
- Roggio said generals have the duty to stand up to potentially flawed ideas but claimed some are ‘climbers’ and have ‘largely become political’
Retiring General Scott Miller is to blame for the bungled US exit from Afghanistan, a military expert who predicted the fall of the nation’s capital months ago has claimed.
Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at think tank the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, slammed military leadership, telling DailyMail.com he tried to warn the Pentagon of the swift advance of the Taliban towards Kabul in the weeks before they took the city but was ‘ignored’.
Roggio said President Joe Biden insisted on a reduced force of just 700 troops to both keep the US embassy in Kabul open and secure an airport to evacuate the rest of the 3,500 US soldiers, thousands of other Americans and Afghan allies.
As the US commander on the ground and facing the tight constraint, Miller chose Hamid Karzai International Airport in the middle of Kabul for the evacuation, telling US forces to abandon the nearby military airbase of Bagram outside the city.
Miller left Afghanistan in July and is due to retire from the military.
But his fateful decision came back to bite him when the Taliban swarmed into the capital within days, surrounding the airport and frustrating the evacuation of both Americans and allied Afghans, leaving many stranded and at risk of attack.
US General Scott Miller (left) and General Kenneth McKenzie (right) are to blame for the Afghanistan debacle, according to Bill Roggio, of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies
The disastrous withdrawal of US troops in Afghanistan resulted in a political crisis after the Taliban swarmed into the capital of Kabul within days, surrounding the airport and frustrating the evacuation of both Americans and allied Afghans
An aerial picture taken Monday shows crowds and traffic outside the Kabul airport as Americans and Afghan allies attempt to flee Afghanistan
Roggio is livid that none of the US’s top generals, including Centcom commander General Kenneth McKenzie, appear to have questioned Miller’s plan, which he says was doomed to end in catastrophe.
‘Ultimately it’s Generals Miller and McKenzie to blame for the decision over Bagram,’ Roggio told DailyMail.com.
‘Miller was the ground commander at the time and proposed the plan, worked on it with Mackenzie, then they pushed it up.
‘The problem here is that no one stood up and said “this is insane.” No one had the vision to say if the Taliban is able to run through Kabul before we execute our withdrawal we’re going to be in a world of hurt.’
Roggio, a senior fellow at the think tank, He claimed he tried warning the Pentagon of the Taliban’s threat on Kabul weeks before they swooped in, but was ‘ignored’
Roggio, who was embedded with Marines in Iraq and the Canadian armed forces in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2008, pointed the finger at Miller and his senior colleagues McKenzie, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, and defense secretary and former four star general Lloyd Austin, saying they all prioritized politics and fail to stand up to Biden.
‘Generals ultimately take orders. But at some point a general needs to stand up and say, “Sir, I can’t in good conscience execute that order because I believe it will put American lives at risk”,’ said Roggio.
‘That won’t happen because generals in the US military are climbers. They’re concerned about their next posting, their next advancement.
‘They’ve largely become political with the exception of a few. And they just began toeing the political line.’
The military expert and editor of The Long War Journal said he had been researching and documenting the Taliban’s military efforts for the past seven years, and late last year he started to see rural districts and strategic towns throughout the country fall to them at a growing pace.
But Roggio said even in late June this year, weeks from the disastrous fall of Afghanistan’s capital, top US commanders appeared to be using deeply flawed intelligence.
In testimony to congress, General Milley claimed that the Taliban controlled just 81 of the 419 district centers in Afghanistan.
‘In terms of the district centers in the provinces and, as mentioned earlier, there’s 419 district centers, 81 of them or so are in the hands of the Taliban, about 50 were done previously and about 30 or 40 in the last ‘X’ amount of months. In addition to that, no provinces have fallen to the Taliban yet,’ Milley said in a June 23 budget request hearing.
According to Roggio, it was General Miller’s decision to abandon the Bagram airbase (pictured) and use Hamid Karzai International Airport for the evacuation
Roggio said officials should have secured Bagram (pictured in July) and put a cordon in Kabul instead
In a press briefing last week Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley let slip that the generals were acting on orders to reduce forces down to 700 troops. Roggio said President Joe Biden insisted on a reduced force to both keep the US embassy in Kabul open and secure an airport
But Roggio’s data from the time instead showed 139 districts under Taliban control, with a further 173 ‘contested.’
‘The generals should have understood what was happening,’ the defense analyst said.
‘Once we handed over control [to the Afghan army], I recognized that the Taliban insurgency strategy was to spread out from rural districts to the capitals and take them.
‘The Taliban offensive began on May 1, and they had already gutted the Afghan army in half of the districts that they took over.
‘I was saying publicly at the end of May or early June that at this pace the government’s lucky to get out by the end of the summer.
‘Within a couple of weeks Milley actually came round to my numbers, after Centcom behind the scenes was denigrating my numbers.
‘I read their interviews with military commanders, and I built that map. That’s how I knew and tracked it every day for years. That’s seven years of work.
‘I find it repulsive that I could have known what was coming.’
Roggio says the failure to recognize the swift advance by the Taliban on Kabul, threatening the capital, was the reason US military leadership did not question Biden’s orders to reduce in-country forces to just 700 – after years of political pressure to get American forces out of Afghanistan.
‘They had to have thought it would never, ever have come to this. Otherwise he would not have left such a small number of troops,’ Roggio said.
‘They never believed that Kabul was going to fall. They thought there would be time to get Americans out.
In testimony to congress, Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley (pictured right on Tuesday) claimed that the Taliban controlled just 81 of the 419 district centers in Afghanistan. Roggio has accused Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (left) of prioritizing politics and failing to stand up to President Biden
Roggio’s data from the time instead showed 139 districts under Taliban control, with a further 173 ‘contested’
The US said some 16,000 people were flown out of Kabul between Sunday morning and Monday afternoon, with thousands more due to leave the country today (pictured, a satellite image shows people boarding a military plane)
‘Because of that they piled on bad decision after bad decision: how they announced the withdrawal, how they limited themselves to Kabul airport and the embassy, closing Bagram. It all flowed from a complete failure to understand what was happening, while it was happening.
‘But just look at how quickly those estimates changed on the viability of the Afghan government. It went from 1-2 years to six months to weeks, all in the span of a month.’
Roggio added that Miller and his colleagues became blinkered believing they could negotiate with insurgents.
‘The military wedded themselves to the political process, that being negotiations with the Taliban. That was evident in early 2019 when they ended the reporting on what was happening with the military situation in the districts.
‘Miller said the real measure of success would be negotiations with the Taliban, not a military solution. They convinced themselves there was some kind of political settlement here. Once they did that, they began to ignore the military reality on the ground,’ he said.
‘They kept saying the Taliban would negotiate, there is no military solution to the problem, while the Taliban was executing a military solution to the problem.’
Roggio estimated that in order to use the more secure Bagram airbase for evacuations rather than the metropolitan civil airport, Biden would have needed to commit at least 1,000 troops – an idea he said was dismissed as ‘dead on arrival’.
The US has evacuated approximately 58,700 people since August 14. Above, a family boards a US Air Force plane during an evacuation from the Hamid Karzai airport in Kabul on Monday
There are still huge crowds around the airport at Kabul with people desperately trying to get out of the country
‘What they would have needed to have done is to secure Bagram and put a cordon in Kabul, a bubble so people could make it through. It can’t just be a single access point.
‘That would have required far more troops than they have in the operation right now, and that’s just something Biden didn’t want to do.’
The military expert said he was not optimistic that defense leadership would be held accountable for the ‘failure’.
‘It’s without a doubt a failure and someone needs to pay a price for that,’ Roggio told DailyMail.com.
‘President Biden, if he did fire a general, he would have to admit this was all a failure. And he doesn’t believe that. He believes it might be messy, but it’s working.’
In a press briefing last week Milley revealed the plan to abandon Bagram and use Kabul International for evacuations was devised by Miller – and let slip that the generals were acting on orders to reduce forces down to 700 troops.
‘If we were to keep both Bagram and the embassy going, that would be a significant number of military forces… that may have exceeded what we had, or stayed the same as what we had,’ the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman told reporters.
‘So you had to collapse one or the other. And the decision was made, the proposal was made, from CENTCOM commander [McKenzie] and the commander on the ground, Scottie Miller, to go ahead and collapse Bagram.
‘That was all briefed and approved and we estimated that the risk of going out of KIA [Karzai International Airport, Kabul], or the risk of going out of Bagram, were about the same, so going out of KIA was the better tactical solution… in accordance with getting the troops down to a 600, 700 number.’
Roggio said Milley’s statement was revealing – and was part of an effort to avoid blame for the bungled evacuation.
‘I think Milley understands what a mess this is and what a mistake that was. He’s certainly trying to let the s**t roll downhill,’ the defense analyst said.
‘Miller is no longer in the Army, he’s retired. That’s probably why he name-dropped him, he’s not going to pay for it.’
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