A retired U.S. Army general says the four presidents who were elected during America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan bear some responsibility for maintaining it but has indicated it was Barack Obama who had the best opportunity to leave and didn’t.
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard’s observations come on the heels of the deadly suicide bombing in Kabul on Thursday, in which he said those presidents all bear some responsibility. The attack killed 11 Marines, two Army soldiers, and a Navy corpsman.
However, he said it was Obama who let a “time to transition” escape almost a decade ago, which then led to years’ more fighting and dying in the war-torn southwest Asia country.
Afghanistan, said Pittard in an interview with Border Report two weeks before the 20th anniversary of 9/11, was “the place where al Qaeda made the plan to hit America and the Twin Towers. We went in there for the right reasons.”
The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks leveled the twin World Trade Center towers, damaged a significant portion of the Pentagon, and cost the lives of nearly 3,000 Americans, some of whom perished after overtaking terrorist pilots and crashing in a field in western Pennsylvania.
Then-President George W. Bush, on a congressional authorization for the use of force, ordered American forces into Afghanistan about a month after the attacks where they were met and aligned with Mujahadeen fighters opposed to Taliban rule.
“(But) at some point, maybe when Osama (bin Laden) was killed, it was probably time to transition” out of Afghanistan, said Pittard, who led troops against ISIS fighters in Iraq in 2014 and at one point was the commanding officer at Fort Bliss in Texas, one of the largest U.S. military installations in the country.
Still, Pittard seemed to disagree with the decision to pull out of the country now.
“We’ve had two presidents in a row, Trump and Biden, wanting to leave Afghanistan. That’s not a strategy, that’s just leaving the region and the security of the United States,” he told Border Report.
“I’m very concerned about that. (I) wish it would have been different. We’ll see what happens,” he added.
He added that the 2,500 troops in Afghanistan that Biden inherited from his predecessor were of sufficient numbers to keep Afghan National Army and police “in the fight” against the Taliban.
However, “once they saw the U.S. leave, I think they felt like we abandoned them because I think that we did.”
The U.S. spent tens of billions of dollars training and equipping the Afghan forces over the course of nearly two decades, supporters of the pullout have noted. Most all of that equipment, including aircraft and sophisticated helicopters like Blackhawks, have now fallen into the hands of the Taliban.
Pittard also criticized the manner in which the U.S. was ordered to withdraw — in a way that will strand untold numbers of Afghans who helped American forces.
“We are better than that. We shouldn’t leave until the Americans are out and (also) the [Special Immigrant Visas]. That takes a certain amount of leadership and I’m just not sure we have that right now,” he said.
The day after the attack, Obama took to his Twitter account to post comments about the Kabul attack.
“Like so many of you, Michelle and I were heartbroken to hear about the terrorist attack outside the Kabul airport that killed and wounded so many U.S. service members, as well as Afghan men, women, and children,” he wrote.
“As president, nothing was more painful than grieving with the loved ones of Americans who gave their lives serving our country. As President Biden said, these service members are heroes who have been engaged in a dangerous, selfless mission to save the lives of others,” he added.
Our hearts go out to the families who lost a loved one, and to everyone continuing the mission in Kabul. We’re also thinking of the families of the Afghans who died, many of whom stood by America and were willing to risk everything for a chance at a better life.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 27, 2021
“Our hearts go out to the families who lost a loved one, and to everyone continuing the mission in Kabul. We’re also thinking of the families of the Afghans who died, many of whom stood by America and were willing to risk everything for a chance at a better life,” the 44th president concluded.
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