US Defence Secretary says Pentagon was taken ‘by surprise’ by Taliban takeover

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Lloyd Austin, 68, was questioned by members of Congress about the Taliban takeover on Tuesday. In the first public congressional testimony since the Jihadists took control of Afghanistan, the former four-star general said: “The fact that the Afghan army we and our partners trained simply melted away – in many cases without firing a shot – took us all by surprise.”

He added: “It would be dishonest to claim otherwise.”

When conceding the Pentagon needed to confront some “uncomfortable troops”, Mr Austin said: “That we didn’t fully comprehend the depth of corruption and poor leadership in the [Afghan army’s] senior ranks.

“That we didn’t grasp the damaging effect of frequent and unexplained rotations by President Ghani of his commanders.

“That we didn’t anticipate the snowball effect of the deals that the Taliban struck with local leaders in the wake of the Doha agreement.”

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The botched US evacuation of Afghanistan, that saw 13 US troops die in the suicide bombing at Kabul airport, has already taken its toll on President Joe Biden’s ratings.

The 46th President has suffered from a dip in terms of approval ratings.

In the most recent Rasmussen poll, Biden has a net approval rating of -17 percent.

And in some head-to-head polls Mr Biden now even lags behind his predecessor in the White House, Donald Trump.

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In 2020, Biden ousted Trump from the White House after winning 306 electoral college votes compared to 232.

Congressional contributions made by General’s Mark Milley and Frank McKenzie could land the President in even more hot-water.

According to Milley and McKenzie, it would have been a much better strategy for the US to have kept a minimum of 2,500 troops in the country.

In August, Biden categorically denied his commanders had advised him to maintain troops in the region.

“No one said that to me that I can recall,” he said.

But Mr Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggested military officials had warned Afghanistan could collapse in late 2020.

“That was a year ago,” he said.

“My assessment remained consistent throughout.”

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