Berger: Marine Corps looking to establish commission to examine Afghanistan withdrawal

By Aidan Quigley / September 1, 2021 at 2:59 PM

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said Wednesday the Marine Corps is planning to establish a commission to examine the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

The U.S. wrapped up its 20-year war in Afghanistan earlier this week, following a suicide bombing by the Islamic State Khorasan at Kabul’s airport that killed around 170 civilians and 13 U.S. service members last week. The Taliban quickly took over the country this summer as the U.S. prepared to leave.

Berger, speaking at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event, said the Marine Corps wants to study what went right and wrong during the withdrawal and what the service can learn going forward.

“While it’s relatively fresh in our minds, we need an open, honest critique, or a commission, or whatever it is that cracks open what are the options that were available, who made what decisions at what time,” he said. “Not so we can penalize or hang somebody by a yardarm, but actually so we can learn."

Berger said in deciding the structure of the commission, the Marine Corps is looking at the Holloway Commission, which studied the failed 1980 effort to rescue hostages in Iran, and the Long Commission, which studied a 1983 terrorist attack at the Beirut International Airport.

Berger said the past 10 days have not changed his assessment that the Marine Corps’ service in Afghanistan was “worth it.”

“Is it worth it? Yes,” he said. “Were there decisions that were made that we ought to go back and scrub? Absolutely yes."

The commission should review what options the service had, Berger said.

“How did this surprise us, that in the span of 11 days, it so fundamentally changed?” he said. “So those are things, critically, as a government, as a military, we absolutely need to unpack."