WASHINGTON • Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said he was sickened by how the Afghan withdrawal occurred.
Gates, who served as the chief of the Department of Defense from 2006-2011 during parts of the Afghan and Iraq wars, characterized the withdrawal as “really tough,” in an interview with 60 Minutes that has yet to air.
“For a few days there, I actually wasn’t feeling well,” he said.
“And I realized it was because of what was happening in Kabul, and I was just so low about the way it had ended, if you will.”
He also speculated that “it probably did not need to have turned out that way.”
Gates, who also served as the director of central intelligence before his tenure as defense secretary, also noted the United States had “a lot of time to plan” because the previous administration agreed to a conditions-based withdrawal deal with the Taliban.
“Certainly, the military considers withdrawal the most dangerous part of an operation,” he said. “But they really had a lot of time to plan, beginning with the deal that President Trump cut — with the Taliban … So that was in February of 2020.”
He also said the military should’ve started evacuations immediately after President Joe Biden announced a monthslong delay from the previously agreed-upon exit date.
The 20-years long war ended chaotically in August. With only two weeks before the exit date, the Taliban overthrew the U.S.-backed Afghan government, prompting a noncombatant evacuation operation in which U.S. and NATO forces evacuated roughly 120,000 people before the end of the month.