Wicker Questions Military Leaders on Afghanistan Withdrawal

Miss. Senator Says U.S. Credibility ‘Gravely Damaged’

September 28, 2021

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today pressed senior members of the Department of Defense on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In his first set of questions to the panel of witnesses, which included Lloyd Austin III, Secretary of Defense; General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and General Kenneth McKenzie, Commander, U.S. Central Command, Wicker asked each to comment on the disastrous effects of the withdrawal on U.S. credibility in the world.

Wicker cited multiple examples of President Biden making promises and predictions that turned out to be false, including promises to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies.

“We told our interpreters, our drivers, our friends, the people who had had our backs during this entire period of time, that we would not abandon them,” Wicker said. “And that's exactly what we did.”

Gen. Milley agreed with Senator Wicker that U.S. credibility had been damaged as a result of the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

“I think that our credibility with allies and partners around the world and with adversaries is being intensely reviewed by them to see which way this is going to go. And I think damage is one word that could be used,” Milley said.

Notably, Secretary Austin disagreed with Gen. Milley’s assessment and asserted that U.S. credibility after President Biden’s failed withdrawal remained “solid,” despite the disastrous consequences.

Wicker also reprimanded Gen. Milley for his conduct in the final months of the Trump administration, which included a directive to other military leaders to report to him if the President were to begin ordering a nuclear strike. In his remarks to the committee, Milley implied that his actions were not abnormal.

“The allegation is that you told combatant commanders to report back to you,” Wicker said. “Our clear understanding is that they that they are not in the chain of command. You are not in their chain of command.  They report directly to the commander in chief through the Secretary [of Defense]. And so to the extent that you told them to report to you, they were not in your chain of command.”