Retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, a former national security adviser to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, says that the public should be asking "hard questions" of senior military leadership regarding the Afghanistan withdrawal and evacuation.
"How the heck did we get to this position?" Kellogg said to the Washington Examiner during a lengthy interview on Thursday. "How do you create an army that folded in that matter of time? 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? 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 question 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?'"
However, 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.
He consistently spoke about the idea of leader "accountability" throughout the interview, and Kellogg told the Washington Examiner that idea is "personal."
"Lloyd Austin, secretary of defense, worked for me on two different occasions," Kellogg explained. "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."
The Washington Examiner pressed him on President Joe Biden's claims that all of his top senior military advisers recommended the U.S. withdraw from Bagram Air Base.
Kellogg answered that 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 also offered some insight into public condemnations of senior military leadership offered by the veteran and enlisted communities, specifically the Marine officer who was relieved of his post after writing a lengthy dissection of the withdrawal strategy that quickly went viral on social media.
"I feel sorry for him, in the sense of what he did, but he knew he was walking into what I call an L-shaped ambush," Kellogg said of the Marine officer. "He had the courage to say what he wanted to say, and I think he's representing a lot of people and the frustration that you see out there."
The retired lieutenant general also predicted that the withdrawal and subsequent 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. 'No, you served nobly. You did your job. You did what you were supposed to do, but you were failed by senior leadership," he added. "You were failed by the president of the United States. That 31 August date was self-proclaimed. That failure we saw this week was not preordained, and the American people should know that."
"I guarantee you," Kellogg said in closing, that, 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."
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