Defense Secretary Ashton Carter says troops would be fighting the Taliban if they stayed in Afghanistan.
If American soldiers had stayed in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stated, they would “absolutely” be battling the Taliban.
Austin appeared on Capitol Hill Tuesday with other top military leaders to answer questions regarding the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. The hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee is the first time defense officials have spoken publicly about the mission since combat units left the country on August 31.
The administration’s hasty departure of Kabul, the capital city, has been assailed by lawmakers on all sides of the aisle. After a suicide bomber from ISIS-K, a branch of the Islamic State militant group, injured many more in the final week of the evacuation, panic reigned.
If combat forces stayed past the deadline, Austin and General Mark Milley, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told senators Tuesday that the US would now be fighting the Taliban.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts asked Austin if staying in Afghanistan for another year would have made a “fundamental impact.”
“There are a variety of options,” the secretary responded, “but if you stayed there in a forced posture of 2,500, you’d very likely be fighting the Taliban.” “And you’d have to bolster your defenses.”
Milley also stated that retaining forces in Afghanistan beyond September 1 would have meant “going to war with the Taliban all over again.”
This is a developing story, and more information will be added as it becomes available.