Ex-WH Adviser Urges Military to Ask ‘Hard Questions’ About Afghan Withdrawal, Evacuation

Ex-WH Adviser Urges Military to Ask 'Hard Questions' About Afghan Withdrawal, Evacuation Retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg speaking at a news conference. Retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who was adviser to former President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, is urging the military to ask “hard questions” about the “strategic failures” of senior military leadership that oversaw the Afghanistan withdrawal and evacuation. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

By Fran Beyer | Friday, 03 September 2021 01:00 PM

A former White House national security adviser is urging the military to ask “hard questions” about the “strategic failures” of senior military leadership that oversaw the Afghanistan withdrawal and evacuation.

In an interview with the Washington Examiner posted Thursday, retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who was adviser to former President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, asked “How the heck did we get to this position?"

"How do you create an army that folded in that matter of time?,” he told the news outlet.

“The Taliban did not have any artillery support. The Taliban did not have air or logistic support. How did we lose the country after 20 years of us being there?” he said. “Somebody needs to be asking some questions about how did we get to where we're at and on the strategic failures that were made."

"There's a lot of hard questions that need to be asked of the American military at the three- and four-star level," he continued. "I'm talking about now the [David] Petraeuseses of the world, the [H.R.] McMasterses of the world, the [James] Mattises of the world. Everybody who has touched that country. You ask them, 'How did we get here?'"

Kellogg was hesitant to blame Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, who also worked on the Trump administration's withdrawal plan and negotiations with the Taliban, the Washington Examiner reported, speaking about leader "accountability" — and calling that idea "personal."

"Lloyd Austin, secretary of defense, worked for me on two different occasions," Kellogg told the news outlet. "I worked with Mark Milley for years when I was in the White House, when he was either chief of staff of the Army or chairman of the Joint Chiefs. So I don't make these comments, just to make him make them feel good."

He placed full blame on President Joe Biden, but sidestepped Biden’s assertion that all of his top senior military advisers recommended the U.S. withdraw from Bagram Air Base.

He told the news outlet he "can only assume, only hope that [Milley] made his views clear, and then he was overridden by the president.”

"This is on the commander in chief. This is on Joe Biden," he continued. "Joe Biden isn't going anywhere, but his senior leadership should be held accountable. Somebody needs to be held accountable."

Kellogg predicted the withdrawal and chaotic evacuation will have "a huge impact on the psyche of the veterans' community, both in suicide rates from what they feel about themselves and how good they feel they fought."

"They fought exceptionally well, and we should pound away at that fact,” he told the news outlet.

And he warned unless leadership is held accountable, "in two to three weeks, Afghanistan will be a side-story despite 20 years, thousands of deaths, and the trillions of dollars we spent."