Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) took Pentagon leaders to task over the botched Afghanistan withdrawal during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday.
He blasted Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley for speaking to journalist Bob Woodward for his book Peril: “You spent more time with Bob Woodward on this book than you spent analyzing the very likely prospect that the Afghan government was going to fall immediately to the Taliban.”
He also blasted Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on the withdrawal, noting that he oversaw the Pentagon program in 2015 meant to train a force of Syrian rebels that produced only four or five fighters.
“It just seems that you’re chronically bad at this,” Gaetz told Austin.
He noted that Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller sits in a military jail for questioning military leadership for the botched withdrawal:
When people in the military like Lt. Col. Stu Scheller stand up and demand accountability, when they all say that you screwed up, when they point out Gen. Milley’s statement that the government of Afghanistan is not going to get defeated by the Taliban, well he ends up in the brig.
And you all end up in front of us, your former employer Raytheon with a lot of money, and we have poured cash and blood and credibility into a Ghani government that was a mirage. It fell immediately. And while the guy sitting next to you was off talking to Phil Rucker, and was off doing his thing with Bob Woodward, we were all buying into the big lie.
The big lie that this was ever going to be successful and that we could ever rely on the Afghanistan government for anything at all.
Gaetz said to Milley and Austin: “You seem to be very happy failing up over there but if we didn’t have a president that was so addled, you all would be fired because that is what you deserve.”
“You’ve let down people who wear the uniform in my district and all around the country and you are far more interested in what your perception is and how people think about you in insider Washington books than you care about winning, which this group is incapable of doing,” he said.