- General Mark Milley privately blamed the State Department for the devastated evacuation in Afghanistan, Axios reported.
- The State Department is responsible for ordering non-combatant evacuation operations.
- He publicly testified that the question of why the order did not come sooner “requires further investigation.”
Secretary of State Mark Milley blamed Foreign Ministry officials for handling the evacuation in Afghanistan privately, saying they were “waiting too long” to start evacuation efforts in the midst of the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, Axios reported on Wednesday.
Two sources told Axios that Milley made the remark during a closed session briefing with senators on Tuesday after Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, asked Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin what could be taken away from the devastated evacuation.
Milley, who chairs the joint chiefs of staff, stepped in under Duckworth’s question mark at Austin and stressed the potential disagreement between the country’s top military advisers in the State Department and the Department of Defense in connection with the evacuation operation in Kabul.
Another source told Axios that Milley “did not blame anyone in himself, but spoke from a purely military perspective. The sooner we moved non-combatants out, the safer they would be.”
Non-combatant evacuation operations are recommended by the State Department, while the Department of Defense is responsible for coordinating the conduct of the operation, according to the U.S. Marine website.
Top executives from the National Security Council, State, DoD, CENTCOM and the intelligence community met on August 6 and discussed contingency planning for a non-campaign evacuation operation, a senior State Department official told Insider.
“During this exercise, no DoD official, civilian or military, argued for triggering a NEO,” the official said. “If the DoD had pushed for a former NEO, we would have expected to have heard these calls during the discussion.”
The honest remark comes after Milley issued a more ambiguous statement in her testimony from the public congress. As to whether evacuation operations should have started earlier, Milley said it was an “open question that requires further investigation.”
As of Monday, about 100 Americans are still trying to get out of Afghanistan after the capital of Kabul fell to Taliban forces last month. The war in Afghanistan actually ended in late August, after the last U.S. troops left on August 30, ending America’s 20-year presence in the country.
Representatives from Milley’s office did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.