Senate panel schedules Afghanistan hearings

By Tony Bertuca / September 9, 2021 at 10:44 AM

The Senate Armed Services Committee has released a schedule for hearings on Afghanistan.

The committee will receive a briefing in closed session on Sept. 15 from Gen. Austin Miller, the former commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan. On Sept. 28, the committee will hear from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, chief of U.S. Central Command.

On Sept. 30, the committee will hold a hearing to review U.S. military operations in Afghanistan with witnesses yet to be determined.

Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI) said he remains concerned about Afghanistan, despite the U.S. military withdrawal.

“Although we have completed the withdrawal of American military personnel and over 100,000 civilians from Afghanistan, I remain deeply concerned about the events that accompanied our withdrawal and the ongoing humanitarian crisis,” he said. “It is the duty of Congress -- and the Senate Armed Services Committee in particular -- to hold hearings to learn lessons from the situation in Afghanistan and ensure accountability at the highest levels. The committee will hold a series of hearings to examine the factors and decisions that manifested over four presidential administrations of both political parties to shape the outcome we now face in Afghanistan.”

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the committee’s ranking member who has criticized President Biden’s decision to follow through on former President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, said he believes the hearings are necessary to provide “transparency and accountability.”

“I’m grateful to Chairman Reed for prioritizing these critical oversight hearings on Afghanistan -- the first of what I will expect to be many hearings and briefings to review and determine what happened, who should be held accountable, and how we move forward,” he said.

The Biden administration has taken bipartisan criticism for the chaos and violence that erupted during the U.S. military’s evacuation of Kabul, and the rapid collapse of the Afghan military has precipitated questions about the value previous administrations placed on the $141 billion effort to support the now-defunct government in Kabul.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, has been granted authority by Congress to reprogram more than $1 billion thus far to help re-settle Afghan refugees.