In a briefing for senators on Sunday morning, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said terrorist groups like al Qaeda could reconstitute in Afghanistan sooner than the two years defense officials had previously estimated to Congress because of the recent, rapid Taliban takeover of the country, according to a Senate aide briefed on the comments. The situation could result in a greater counterterrorism threat, he acknowledged.
Senators were also told there are as many as 60,000 people who could potentially qualify as Special Immigrant Visa holders or applicants, P1 and P2 visa holders, or others like human rights defenders, two Senate aides said. The White House did not return a request for comment on those numbers.
Axios was first to report on Milley’s comments.
During a briefing for the House later in the morning, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the situation in Kabul “the worst outcome possible.”
“This is remnants of Vietnam, watching helicopters come off and fly by our embassy right now,” he said, according to a GOP source on the call. McCarthy added: “yes, I have passion, I have anger. … For everyone who we promised we would protect, how are they ever going to get out of there as of today?”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken repeated that the administration had little option but to withdraw beginning on May 1 because of a deal made by the Trump administration, which would have resulted in resumed attacks by the Taliban on US and coalition forces amid the militant group’s nationwide offensive.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that while the Pentagon had been planning for “a number of potential outcomes,” the “lack of resistance that the Taliban faced from Afghan forces has been extremely disconcerting.”
“They had all the advantages, they had 20 years of training by our coalition forces, a modern air force, good equipment and weapons,” he said, according to sources on the call. “But you can’t buy will and you can’t purchase leadership. And that’s really what was missing in this situation.”