On Wednesday, speaking at a joint press conference with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley protested regarding the fall of the Afghan government and the Afghan army to the Taliban, “There was nothing that I or anyone else saw that indicated a collapse of this army and this government in 11 days.”

Prior to that statement, Milley stated:

Let me make one comment on the intelligence, because I am seeing all over the news it that there were warnings of a rapid collapse. I have previously said from this podium and in sworn testimony before Congress that the intelligence clearly indicated multiple scenarios were possible. One of those was an outright Taliban takeover following a rapid collapse of the Afghan security forces and the government. Another was a civil war. And a third was a negotiated settlement. However, the timeframe of a rapid collapse, that was widely estimated and ranged from weeks to months and even years following our departure.

He added, “Central Command submitted a variety of plans that were briefed and approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, and the President. These plans are coordinated, synchronized, and rehearsed to deal with these various scenarios.”

Milley was asked about the Afghan army and its collapse to the Taliban, “Did you feel that they were ever up to this fight? Or did you not see this coming, that they were not up to the fight?”

“Well, I stood behind this podium, and it said that the Afghan security forces had the capacity, and by that, I mean, they had the training, the size, the capability to defend their country. This comes down to an issue of will and leadership,” he replied. Then he reiterated, “And no, I did not, nor did anyone else see a collapse of an army that size in 11 days.”

Milley and Austin were asked, “Do you believe, or do you regret, not starting the evacuation of a bit earlier even by a day or two?”

Austin replied:

You know, we make plans for a number of things, and clearly, as the chairman pointed out, we — as we did detailed planning throughout, we recognize that there might be a — a — a point in time when we have to conduct a NEO. So we’ve positioned all the — all the right forces in theater to be able to do that. We put forces on standby in the United States to support that.

And of course, you know, we — we also did — were in support of the — of the State-led SIV — SIV applicant process throughout. So in terms of, you know, doing everything that we could as — at the — at the right time, I think — I think we have been — been pretty prudent in terms of thinking ahead and planning for contingencies.

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