September 17, 2021

President Ignored His Afghanistan Commander

Biden and his Pentagon brass didn’t listen to General Miller, but they absolutely should have.

General Austin “Scott” Miller doesn’t make an appearance in Jessica Donati’s book Eagle Down until chapter 28, but it’s worth the wait.

Donati covers national security and foreign affairs for The Wall Street Journal, and her book covers the last few years of our military involvement in Afghanistan — an involvement whose burden since 2015 has fallen mostly to our Special Forces. In her brief portrait of Miller, whom Donald Trump placed in command of all American and NATO forces in Afghanistan in September 2018, we learn that he’s short, strong, and athletic, and that he’s in better shape that many of his troops, even at age 57. That’s not surprising, though. “Miller had enjoyed a legendary career, having served as a Delta Force captain in Somalia during the Battle of Mogadishu,” Donati writes. “He was also known for aggressively stepping up Delta Force operations while in charge of the unit in Iraq.”

Now comes the important part. Donati continues:

Miller inspired a cult-like dedication in his team. He was respected at all ranks and viewed as the sort of rare general officer that looked out for his men. He had spent enough time in Afghanistan to know many mid-level Afghan commanders on a personal basis, including some that by then had ascended to senior ranks in the government. With restrictions on U.S. operations lifted, there were anecdotes of Afghan commanders who called Miller personally from the field to request support.

Perhaps you see where we’re going. As the last commander in Afghanistan, General Miller knew that country. He knew its people. He knew the strengths and especially the weakness of the Afghan forces there. Lloyd Austin didn’t. Mark Milley didn’t. Joe Biden didn’t. If any general officer should’ve had the president’s ear prior to the collapse of Afghan forces and our nation’s subsequent retreat and surrender, it should’ve been Scott Miller. If any commander should’ve been able to say, Don’t abandon Bagram Air Base, or, Don’t suspend our air support for Afghan forces just yet, or, Don’t rely on the Taliban to provide security at crucial checkpoints, or, Don’t withdraw our troops until every last American is safely out, it should’ve been General Miller.

But Miller didn’t have Biden’s ear. Or if he did, Biden didn’t listen. Or Biden listened, and then lied about it.

As The Hill reports, “The former commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan told senators Tuesday he opposed a full withdrawal from the country and advised Pentagon leadership [Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley, and U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Frank McKenzie] of his position, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee told reporters after a closed-door briefing with the general.”

That top Republican is Oklahoma’s James Inhofe, who couldn’t say much more due to the closed-door nature of the hearing. “We heard enough to know that there are inconsistencies between what the administration has said and the truth,” he added at a news conference. “Clearly, President Biden didn’t listen to all the military advice given.”

Clearly, he didn’t. And clearly, both nations — ours and Afghanistan — are worse off for it.

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