Sen. Sullivan: Alaskans furious over lack of accountability for Afghanistan withdrawal

Sen. Dan Sullivan at a Sept. 28 hearing in the Armed Services Committee. (Still from Senate video)

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan is a military man who generally likes his generals. But Tuesday he gave Pentagon leaders a dressing-down over the chaotic departure of the U.S. military from Afghanistan.

Sullivan said Alaskans are furious over it.

“I’ve never seen so much anger, at least from my constituents, who have witnessed a fiasco, a humiliation, a president who is consistently telling falsehoods to the American people,” Sullivan said at a hearing the Senate Armed Services Committee. “And … there’s no accountability.”

Sullivan pressed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, on accepting responsibility. One by one, he asked them whether they’d submitted a resignation letter.

The witnesses acknowledged that they had recommended leaving a few thousand troops in Afghanistan. Sullivan said President Biden lied, citing an interview in August when Biden said his military advisers did not tell him to keep troops on the ground past the withdrawal deadline.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden made clear in the interview that advisers were split over the issue.

Sullivan’s aggressive line of questioning echoed the approach other Republicans took to keep the spotlight trained on President Biden’s liability for the war’s tumultuous end.

Senators of both parties had harsh questions, though some Democrats on the committee suggested that leaving a small force behind would have resulted in more U.S. casualties and still not prevented the Taliban takeover. 

At least a few dozen American citizens remain in Afghanistan. Secretary Austin said the military evacuated 21 of them Tuesday and is working to get the rest out.

NPR contributed to this report.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.

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